Potential UNLV recruits value stability, growth in college careers

For a few potential UNLV recruits, finding a home at a Division I program means looking at different factors beyond prestige. And this week in Las Vegas gives them a chance to showcase their skills and reflect on what they value in a college program.

Matt Mitchell, a 6-foot-6-inch perimeter player from Corona, California, plays for Dream Vision in the Adidas Summer Championship tournament. Mitchell first committed to Cal State Fullerton but has since been granted his release and is undecided.

After logging 11 points, five assists and five steals in 25 minutes to help Dream Vision beat Carroll Premier 90-72, Mitchell offered a couple of factors in his search for a new basketball home.

“A team that’s family oriented, tightknit, and well-rounded academically and that’s going to look out for my best interest,” Mitchell said. “ (Coaches who) accelerate my game to allow me a chance to play in the NBA.”

UNLV has a bit of a logjam when it comes to its basketball team. With a talented incoming class headlined by Brandon McCoy, the Rebels are currently over their limit for scholarships.

But UNLV coach Marvin Menzies has been making a late push for Mitchell, who averaged 25.4 points and shot 40.7 percent on 3-pointers as a high school senior, even if it means shuffling around an already full deck. While Mitchell isn’t saying which way he is leaning, he does like what Menzies is building in Las Vegas.

“I think it’s a great program, with the new recruiting class coming in,” he said. “I think the program is on the rise.”

UNLV has not appeared in the NCAA Tournament since 2013.

In addition, Mitchell’s Dream Vision teammate, Bryan Penn-Johnson, is also getting a hard look from UNLV.

The 7-footer brings a natural feel for the center position with the athleticism to dominate on both ends. He is still working to improve his offensive skills. He scored six points in 18 minutes against Carroll Premier, but his long arms and uncanny timing make him a defensive force. He finished with four blocks, which he considers a slow day.

“I usually average about eight or nine, so I tried to get more, but this game I was little slow on my feet,” Penn-Johnson said. “So I’ll pick it up next game.”

Penn-Johnson is set to play for Wasatch (Utah) as a senior after attending Coronado High as a junior. He sat out last season after transferring from Desert Pines.

For the Las Vegas native, the priorities for choosing a school are a bit different. Though he has not stepped into a college classroom or decided on a major, he said that education is a top priority, as he is looking to build a foundation for life after basketball.

“All of my family is on the East Coast, but I’m on the West Coast. (I’d like) somewhere that would help with that situation,” Penn-Johnson said.

Penn-Johnson expressed some respect and comfort in dealing with the coaches at UNLV, something which might work in the Rebels favor.

“I like the staff, (they’re) really good. I’m really good friends with coach Menzies,” he said. “They were my first offer my freshman year.”

The prospects are raw, but the talent is there to be developed and nurtured. And if Menzies is able to sell the idea that UNLV is the right home for its recruits, maybe they have a chance at fulfilling the lofty projection Mitchell made at Cashman Center on Wednesday.

“I think they will be possibly a top 25 team this year,” Mitchell said.

Contact Jonathan Saxon at Follow @J_Saxon91 on Twitter.

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