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T.J. Otzelberger: David Jenkins commitment is ‘monumental’ for UNLV

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Steve Marcus

T.J. Otzelberger, UNLV’s new men’s basketball head coach responds to a question during a news conference at the Thomas & Mack Center Thursday, March 28, 2019.

UNLV has had an active offseason, with a coaching change, transfers, schedule announcements and incoming recruits keeping the program in the news on a daily basis, and on Monday new head coach T.J. Otzelberger said everything has gone according to plan.

After being put through a workout by former MMA champion Forrest Griffin at the UFC Performance Institute, Otzelberger met with the media and gave an update on the Rebels’ offseason to this point.

“I feel it’s going great,” Otzelberger said. “I’m excited about the guys that are continuing with the program. At the same time, I think the recruiting has gone really well for us with some of the guys we targeted.”

Otzelberger was in an especially good mood over the commitment of David Jenkins. In two years under Otzelberger at South Dakota State, Jenkins proved himself to be one of the best shooters in the nation. The 6-foot-2 guard knocked down 45.3 percent of his 3-point attempts last season, and on Saturday Jenkins announced he’ll be following Otzelberger to Las Vegas.

Otzelberger said the addition of Jenkins will benefit UNLV on and off the court.

“It’s huge,” Otzelberger said. “David is a first-class young man, a competitor, a tireless worker. He can score the basketball, but probably more valuable than what David is as a basketball player is who he is as a person.

“With David, it really is personal because he’s been close with my family, he’s babysat my kids, he’s been to the house a number of times. His story is very personal to me, too, because he wasn’t very highly recruited. To get him, I think you have to celebrate the small victories you have on a daily basis, and we’re certainly excited about David’s commitment. It’s a monumental commitment for our program as we move forward.”

Eleven UNLV players have entered the NCAA transfer portal since Marvin Menzies was fired at the conclusion of the Rebels’ season. Otzelberger has been able to persuade five to stay: Amauri Hardy, Bryce Hamilton, Nick Blair, Mbacke Diong and Cheickna Dembele.

One player, forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, has committed to Baylor. The five players still in the portal — Shakur Juiston, Joel Ntambwe, Trey Woodbury, Tervell Beck and Ben Coupet — are unlikely to return at this point.

Otzelberger said he expects the roster to settle and that he’s looking forward to getting to know his players when on-court workouts begin over the summer.

“I think we’re through most of that with the transfer portal,” he said. “At the same time, student-athletes deserve to have the opportunity they want with their college experience. And if what we’re looking for and the standard we’re setting with the program doesn’t fit what they’re looking for, then we’d certainly support them [in transferring].”

As of now, the Rebels have one open scholarship. Otzelberger said he wants to use that spot to add a player who can help the team, whether it’s someone who has to sit out a year as a transfer or someone who can play immediately as a grad transfer (or a high school recruit).

“I think for us it’s about having the right guys on the bus and in the program, so we’ve looked at both scenarios,” Otzelberger said. “I want to bring in guys that are going to help this program excel not only in the short term, but in the long term. So if it ends up being a sit-out transfer, that’s fine. If it ends up being an immediate guy, that’s fine. We really haven’t specified exactly what that needs to be. To me, it’s more about having the right people.”

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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