Tuesday, July 16, 2019 | 2 a.m.
With the new recruiting calendar instituted by the NCAA this season, high-school players have fewer opportunities to perform live in front of college coaches. Every chance to show out must be seized.
UNLV’s top targets did just that over the weekend, as the Rebels’ 2020 recruits all played well in prestigious events during the July live period that ran from Thursday to Sunday.
Bishop Gorman’s Mwani Wilkinson has more incentive than most as his recruitment is still on the upswing, and the athletic 6-foot-6 wing took advantage of the big stage at the Nike Peach Jam event in Atlanta. Coming off the bench for his Las Vegas Elite team, Wilkinson focused on the defensive end and finished with eight blocks and 20 rebounds in 86 total minutes over five games.
Wilkinson knows he can be an impact defender at the college level, so it was important for him to showcase his lock-down ability and tough-minded attitude for the Division-I coaches in attendance.
“I wanted to prove I’m a position-less player and that I’m a tough player, too,” Wilkinson said. “A lot of coaches like the fact that I play hard and I play defense. They like my athleticism the most, I think.”
On the offensive end, Wilkinson scored 8.4 points per game, mostly on shots around the rim. He attempted four 3-pointers and made one.
UNLV was one of the first teams to recruit Wilkinson, as T.J. Otzelberger offered him a scholarship shortly after accepting the UNLV head coaching job in April. Since then, Wilkinson has added offers from Cal, Vanderbilt, Minnesota, TCU and USC.
Wilkinson is currently rated as a 3-star recruit by 247Sports. He is the consensus No. 229 player in the Class of 2020.
Wilkinson took an official visit to UNLV two weeks ago and said he is planning to visit Vanderbilt. Although offers are still rolling in, he said he hopes to have his decision made by the end of the summer or before the beginning of the high-school season at the latest.
He said UNLV is very much in consideration, with Otzelberger and assistant Kevin Kruger leading the charge.
“I talk to them a lot,” Wilkinson said. “They’re really interested in me, so I talk to coach T.J. and coach Kruger a lot. They’re two good guys and I really enjoy talking to them.”
UNLV also had a strong presence at the Adidas Summer Championships event in Birmingham, Ala., as assistant coaches DeMarlo Slocum and Tim Buckley were front and center for all of Nick Blake’s game with the Las Vegas Knicks.
Blake committed to UNLV in June, and that continues to look like a good pickup for the Rebels after the 6-foot-7 swingman scored 18.3 points per game against the best Adidas teams in the country.
Blake shot the ball extremely well over the weekend, as he connected on 54.0 percent of his attempts and nailed 9-of-18 from 3-point range (50.0 percent). Blake went over 20 points twice in six games, including a 27-point outburst on Thursday in which he hit on 11-of-16 from the field.
Two other UNLV targets also impressed at the Adidas event, as Uneek Ballers teammates Donavan Yap and Jhaylon Martinez displayed their skill sets.
Yap averaged 18.5 points per game while connecting on 24-of-45 from the field. The Arbor View guard showed his shooting potential as he drilled 10-of-26 from 3-point range (38.5 percent) and 12-of-15 from the free-throw line (80.0 percent). He scored at least 16 points in every game.
Martinez, a 6-foot-10 center, played four games and posted 10.3 points and 6.0 rebounds. He shot 66.7 percent from the field and connected on 1-of-4 from 3-point range.