Thursday, April 11, 2019 | 2 a.m.
Over the weekend T.J. Otzelberger said he expected things to start happening “soon” for UNLV hoops, and he was right — the last few days have been a whirlwind of activity, with two key Rebels re-committing and an assistant coach joining the staff.
Now that the NCAA recruiting dead period is set to end on Friday, Otzelberger will be allowed to meet directly with players again, so expect the news to keep rolling in.
Some recruiting situations to monitor in the coming days:
Julian Strawther, Liberty
Strawther has long been considered the Rebels’ top target in the Class of 2020, and he will announce his college decision on April 18. Otzelberger met with Strawther shortly after accepting the UNLV job, so the new coach seems serious about pursuing the high-scoring 6-foot-7 wing. But are the Rebels too far behind in that race? Schools like Gonzaga and Washington have been recruiting Strawther for years, and Otzelberger will have been on the job for just 23 days when the 4-star prospect makes his announcement. Consider the Rebels a serious dark horse.
Noah Taitz, Bishop Gorman
The 6-foot-3 guard appears to have a skill set perfectly suited to Otzelberger’s offensive system, but can the Rebels land him? Stanford, USC, Washington and St. Mary’s are recruiting Taitz heavily, leaving Otzelberger to play catch-up. Unlike Strawther, it sounds like Taitz is planning to wait until later in the summer to make his decision. Otzelberger and Taitz will meet in person on Friday, so maybe the Rebels aren’t completely out of the picture yet.
David Jenkins, South Dakota State
Jenkins announced his intention to transfer last week, leading to speculation that he could follow Otzelberger to UNLV. He played under Otzelberger for two years at South Dakota State and put up ridiculous numbers, including 112 made 3-pointers last season. There hasn’t been a lot of noise around his recruitment, but don’t let that fool you — tons of really good schools are after him (Gonzaga, Arizona, UNR and Kansas, to name a few).
Caleb Grill, Maize (Kan.)
Grill was supposed to be the next great shooter to join Otzelberger’s program at South Dakota State, but when UNLV hired the coach away, Grill de-committed. Now the 3-star guard is looking at Creighton, Iowa State, Kansas State and UNLV. He’s got a visit to UNLV planned for May 3-5, so don’t expect a decision from Grill until then.
Mwani Wilkinson, Bishop Gorman
While Strawther and Taitz get most of the headlines in the local Class of 2020, Wilkinson is another intriguing prospect drawing interest from the Rebels. The 6-foot-6 forward is a supreme athlete who can play above the rim, and he finished his junior season strong by scoring 16 points in Gorman’s state-championship victory over Clark. Otzelberger offered Wilkinson last week.
Alihan Demir, Drexel
The first grad transfer on this list, Demir posted 14.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game last year, and the 6-foot-9 forward can shoot it a little bit, too. Though he made just 27.4 percent from 3-point range last season, he made 36.5 percent the season before as a sophomore. His defense is shaky, but his size, scoring ability and immediate eligibility have UNLV interested. USC, Florida, Washington State and Kansas State are also pursuing Demir.
Jhaylon Martinez, Coronado
Otzelberger is known to run a perimeter-oriented system, but his best player at South Dakota State was Mike Daum, a multi-faceted big man. At 6-foot-10, Martinez would bring size to the Rebels’ frontcourt in 2020-21. UNLV offered him on April 3. The consensus 3-star prospect is also being courted by Colorado State, Grand Canyon and St. Mary’s.