Ted S. Warren / AP
Monday, May 20, 2019 | 2 a.m.
David Jenkins is UNLV-bound, as the coveted transfer from South Dakota State chose the Rebels on Saturday. It’s a big deal for the program, as Jenkins can legitimately make an argument for being the nation’s best shooter.
Now that he’s on board, what impact will Jenkins’s commitment have on UNLV and new head coach T.J. Otzelberger?
Otzelberger scores a big win
Before Jenkins signed with UNLV, T.J. Otzelberger had been having an up-and-down offseason on the recruiting trail. Though he did a good job of convincing key holdovers Amauri Hardy and Mbacke Diong to stay with the Rebels, he was unable to land former South Dakota State commit Caleb Grill.
Now, Otzelberger’s first incoming class is looking like a smash hit. Jenkins is that good, as he averaged 19.7 points per game last season while knocking down 45.3 percent of his 3-point attempts. And sure, Otzelberger had a head start on Jenkins by virtue of their prior relationship at SDSU, but he still had to hold off challenges from quality programs like Gonzaga and Oregon. That counts as a huge victory for Otzelberger and the Rebels.
With Jenkins on board, UNLV appears to have a plan in place to qualify for the NCAA tournament — or at least make a strong run at it — in 2020-21. Jenkins will have to sit out this upcoming season, but when he is eligible in 2020 he will join Hardy and Diong (both seniors then) as well as guard Bryce Hamilton (junior) to form the core of a team that should compete for the Mountain West title and a spot in the big dance.
While it would be nice to have Jenkins on the court this season, the timeline works out for UNLV. When he is ready to play — assuming Otzelberger can add another key piece or two in the meantime — the Rebels will be ready for postseason play.
UNLV added some solid players before Jenkins came aboard, as Jonah Antonio (a highly rated juco prospect) and Elijah Mitrou-Long (a grad transfer from Texas) should both play big roles this season. But the amount of talent leaving the program in the wake of Marvin Menzies’s firing had fans worried, and understandably so — players like Shakur Juiston and Joel Ntamwbe are not easy to replace.
The Jenkins commitment gives those fans a reason to get excited about the talent level on the team going forward. Jenkins gives UNLV a star presence, as he scored 30-plus points four times last year and had 10 games with at least five made 3-pointers.
The Jenkins commitment is a big step in making the Rebels an exciting on-court product again.
Though Jenkins won’t be eligible to play in games next year, he’ll be practicing with the team on a daily basis. Otzelberger will no doubt appreciate having an advocate like Jenkins, as he is walking, talking proof that the system works.
Jenkins knows how to run the playbook, he knows what Otzelberger expects from the players and he can communicate that to the rest of the locker room from the ground level. That should help ease the transition for the first-year coach.
With Jenkins signed, UNLV now has one open scholarship, though that could change as players continue to enter the transfer portal as Trey Woodbury and Ben Coupet did last week. Among the remaining holdovers, seldom-used Djordjije Sljivancanin and Jay Green could still find themselves testing the transfer market.
If there is only room for one more addition, what direction will Otzelberger go? Jenkins and former Tulane forward Moses Wood are sit-out transfers, so the Rebels will only have 11 active scholarship players at most next season. Adding another sit-out would bring that number to 10 and test the team’s depth. Otzelberger may be willing to roll with a short roster for a year if it gets him a quality player, but a grad transfer seems like a safer option.