The UNLV Runnin Rebels basketball program has undergone an explosive transformation under head coach Dave Rice and company's leadership. The UNLV coaching staff, an all-star assemblage of knowledge and networking skills, has signed up the most talented group of college stars in the country for the 2012-2013 season.
The recruiting season was an amazing few months for head recruitor Justin Hutson and his staff. Katin Reinhardt out of Orange County, California, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to "blue chip" recruits.
Anthony Bennett was a huge coup by Hutson. Bennett, playing locally at Findlay Prep, found himself choosing between Pac-12 powerhouse Oregon and UNLV. Bennett choosing the Rebels over the Nike house team shows the respect Dave Rice has generated for the Rebels program in one short year
Hutson and Rice may have missed out on Las Vegas local talent, Shabazz Mohammed, but this might be the best thing for the UNLV Runnin Rebels. It is great to hear UNLV mentioned as a potential landing spot for every National McDonald's High School All-American.
The players that went elsewhere this recruiting season ended up on top-ten teams across the country. Seeing UNLV mentioned with Duke, Kentucky and UCLA gives the school the credibility it has lacked since Jerry Tarkanian roamed the halls on campus.
The Runnin Rebels already had Khem Birch, a highly sought after transfer from Pittsburgh, and Bryce Jones, a transfer from USC, in their back pocket for this season. Getting Birch and Jones in the lineup will give the team a different look and it will take time for the team to mesh but they have practiced together already prepping for their recently concluded Canadian tour.
Birch, Jones and Reinhardt join returning Rebels Mike Moser and Anthony Marshall to form one of the most formidable UNLV teams in the last 20 years. Anthony Bennett and Justin Hawkins will fight for playing time as well and top 75 recruit Savon Goodman looks like he will possibly red-shirt this season.
The embarrassment of riches has UNLV Runnin Rebels fans ecstatic and looking forward to November. The fact that the UNLV Rebels football team is 0-3 this season is elevating the chatter about the basketball team as well.
*Todd Jacobs is a Las Vegas resident and a fan of the UNLV Runnin Rebels teams since the early '80s when Jerry Tarkanian stalked the bench.