The signs arrived early that Christian Wood had a future playing basketball.
UNLV’s incoming physical specimen has stood out in a crowd since an early age.
“At about 5 years old, he had a basketball court at my mom’s house,” said Wood’s mother, Jeanette Stewart. “We watched him pick up a basketball with one hand. He was like, ‘Look, I can hold a basketball,’ and everybody’s mouth just dropped open. Everybody was quiet, like, ‘Wow, he’s got big hands.’ From that point, he loved basketball.”
The early NCAA signing period for basketball, among other sports, began Wednesday and will end Nov. 21.
Wood, a versatile 6-foot-11-inch forward from Findlay Prep, signed with UNLV on Wednesday in the Pilots’ gym at Henderson International.
Wood committed to the Rebels in July 2011, and he stayed solid on his commitment all the way to signing the national letter of intent by his mother’s side.
“I love the way (UNLV’s) style of play is just the same as Findlay’s,” Wood said. “They like to run and get up the floor. They’re called the Runnin’ Rebels for a reason. At Findlay, they teach us to run; we do conditioning at 5:30 in the morning.”
Wood brings a rare blend of post size and perimeter skills.
Wood said he was about 6-7 when he transferred from Knight High in Palmdale, Calif., to Findlay Prep for his junior season last year. He now stands about 6-11, 210 pounds.
Wood played sparingly last season for the Pilots, who capped a 32-1 campaign with their third National High School Invitational title in four years.
But Wood turned heads at the LeBron James Skills Academy at Rancho in July. His game has blossomed to the point where Rivals.com ranks him No. 36 overall in the 2013 class.
Wood racked up 20 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots to lead Findlay Prep (5-0) to a 117-66 rout of visiting La Jolla Prep (Calif.) on Tuesday.
“People are like, ‘What position is he?’ ” Findlay Prep coach Todd Simon said. “You know what? He doesn’t have a position. If he can show me he can guard a guard, he’ll be a guard. He’ll play center, he’ll play forward, he’ll play everything for us. That’s what his skill set dictates. It’s extremely unique.”
Wood, who turned 17 on Sept. 27, might not be done growing. And UNLV coach Dave Rice is getting a player receptive to playing multiple positions.
“They said I’d come in as a ‘three,’ ‘four,’ or ‘five,’ ” Wood said. “I was like, ‘OK.’ I’ll just play my role. You don’t want to be a one-sided player.”
Stewart bought him a backyard basketball set when he was 8, and it didn’t take long for his hoop dreams to take root.
“All night, you’d hear a tap, tap, tap,” Stewart said. “A few neighbors complained, then they watched him grow so quickly. They said, ‘Let him go. Let him tap that ball.’ The neighbors started saying, ‘He’s going to be somebody.’
“I used to tell everybody, ‘This is going to be my basketball player.’ Just watching him grow, I knew it. I didn’t think it would get him this far, but he’s here.”