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SUPER 64: UNLV keeping eye on big man with big upside

Sporting an NBA-size body before college, Robert Upshaw could be taking his future for granted.

But the 7-foot center and UNLV recruiting target has some blue collar to go with his blue-chip status.

“Starting from eighth grade to now, I feel like out of 10 stairs I’ve walked about five,” Upshaw said. “I’ve walked up five so far, and I’ve still got room to improve before I get to the next level.”

Upshaw, who will be a senior next season at San Joaquin Memorial High School in Fresno, Calif., has impressed onlookers at the adidas Super 64 tournament with his blend of size and athleticism.

The 240-pound big man with a big smile racked up 10 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks Sunday to help Dream Vision 17s (Calif.) to an 82-57 win over Detroit Fire in the first round of the Super 64 at Rancho.

UNLV head coach Dave Rice and assistant Justin Hutson watched from the stands, along with head coaches like UCLA’s Ben Howland, San Diego State’s Steve Fisher and California’s Mike Montgomery.

Upshaw, ranked the No. 8 center in the nation by Rivals.com, politely declined to list his scholarship offers so as not to exclude anyone. However, he said UNLV is pushing for his services.

“Yes, they are,” Upshaw said. “I’ve talked to coach Rice, I’ve talked to coach Hutson. I’ve been talking to everybody from UNLV. They tell me things about the program. It’s a nice university.”

Upshaw reportedly also has offers from Arizona, Texas, UCLA, his hometown Fresno State and many others, but he has yet to whittle the process.

Upshaw has a teddy-bear personality but can get nasty in the paint. What else would recruiters expect from the nephew of the late Gene Upshaw, a Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive lineman for the Oakland Raiders?

“Me being a role player, that really does it for me,” Upshaw said. “I block shots and I rebound the ball. (Summer teammates) Shabazz Muhammad, Winston Shepard and other guys score, so what defines me is that I’m a center who can do other things.”

Dream Vision coach Clayton Williams said Upshaw has blossomed since beginning to play in eighth grade.

“He wants to accept the role of being a classic big man,” Williams said. “There are not that many back-to-the-basket guys now. He’s kind of a throwback. He’s got a little old school to his game.”

Upshaw said he has learned a wealth of knowledge not only from coaches, but from his brother, Jereol Walker, who plays at Southern University at Shreveport (La.) junior college.

“(Walker) has taught me the game, taught me what to do with it, and I’m improving every day,” Upshaw said.

NOTES — The adidas Super 64 title game at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Rancho will air live on CBS College Sports Network (Cox 333). … Local fans wanting to catch a glimpse of Bishop Gorman’s Muhammad, who scored 27 points Sunday, could have plenty of chances today. Dream Vision will play in the second round at 9 a.m. at Rancho, with possible third- and fourth-round games to follow at 3:40 p.m. and 7:40 p.m. … Incoming Findlay Prep senior point guard Dominic Artis, who had been recruited by UNLV, announced his oral commitment to UCLA on Sunday.

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