College basketball coaches bustled across the nation Thursday as the NCAA’s spring period for contact with recruits in the class of 2012 began.
Bishop Gorman High School might have had the busiest gym in the country.
Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, North Carolina’s Roy Williams, Stanford’s Johnny Dawkins, New Mexico’s Steve Alford and Southern California’s Kevin O’Neill were among the head coaches who lined the sidelines to watch a Gorman workout and scrimmage.
“I think Vegas has always had good players, but this year there are some of the best in the country,” Williams said.
Also present was Brigham Young associate head coach Dave Rice, who is considered the leading candidate to land UNLV’s vacant head coaching position.
Rice, who interviewed at UNLV on Wednesday, was wearing a black golf shirt without UNLV or BYU logos.
He said he was “very excited” to be part of the coaching search, adding that Southern Nevada is rapidly growing in talent for colleges to mine.
“It’s a growing community, and basketball’s very important,” Rice said. “There are good players, but it takes good coaching, and this community has a combination of really good coaches at private and public schools.”
NCAA rules prohibit college coaches from discussing unsigned recruits. None of the class of 2012 players can sign until November.
Rice’s brother, Grant, is Gorman’s coach. Many have speculated that hiring Dave Rice could help develop a local recruiting pipeline to UNLV.
Grant Rice said he offers opinions to players only when asked, and players and their families make the decisions.
“As a high school coach, we’re never going to tell a kid where to go,” Grant Rice said. “It’s their family’s choice. They’re going to make their decisions individually on what’s best for them, as they should.”
Several Gorman players met with coaches after the scrimmage. No one had a more popular handshake than Shabazz Muhammad, a blue chip swingman who leads a group of at least five Gorman juniors with Division I scholarship offers.
“It’s getting crazier and crazier,” Muhammad said. “These coaches come out to support us, and we appreciate it.”
Muhammad said he is considering offers from Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Arizona, UCLA and Kansas, but that UNLV should be in the mix to the end.
He was happy to see more than two dozen UNLV fans dressed in Rebels apparel who packed the bleachers at the gym entrance.
“There were like 40 people out there,” Muhammad said. “There was a lot of fan support. I really appreciate it. It felt good to have that red in the background of us.”
Before coach Lon Kruger left for Oklahoma on April 1, he also had offered scholarships to versatile junior forwards Ben Carter and Rosco Allen.
The 6-foot-8-inch Carter and the 6-9 Allen possess smooth floor games, a shooting touch and the ability to play with their backs to the basket. Both even saw time bringing the ball up last season.
“They’re not your typical big men,” Grant Rice said. “They’re very versatile and very skilled for their size.”
Junior post players Demetris Morant and Ronnie Stanley, also an elite offensive tackle, also have various Division I basketball offers.
Morant (6-9) came off the bench for Gorman last season, but has offers from Memphis, San Diego State, Texas A&M and Florida State, Grant Rice said.
Carter called his own process “wide open,” as he is considering offers from more than 10 schools, including UNLV, BYU, Utah, New Mexico and Oregon.
Dave Rice and Reggie Theus have been the two leading candidates in the Rebels’ search for a coach, and Carter said both would be great fits.