By Steve Guiremand
One of Dave Rice’s first tasks as UNLV basketball coach was putting together a staff with strong recruiting credentials. And that strategy appears to have paid off with a strong early signing class that was announced on Wednesday.
The Runnin’ Rebels filled three of their five available scholarships during the early November signing period, landing a highly touted point guard in Daquan Cook (6-foot-1, 170-pounds) of St. Frances Academy in Baltimore, a top-50 shooting guard prospect in Katin Reinhardt (6-5, 190) of famed Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif., as well as one of the top seniors in southern Nevada in 6-9 shot blocking forward Demetris Morant of Bishop Gorman.
Reinhardt, who already has developed a strong following from hardcore Runnin’ Rebels for his play in Las Vegas summer and fall league games, is rated the nation’s No. 45 overall prospect by Rivals.com. He is an excellent 3-point shooter and playmaker in the Jimmer Fredette-mold who starred on a Mater Dei squad that finished 32-2 and won the 2011 California state Division I championship.
“We’re excited about Katin,” Rice said. “We talked about protecting our home recruiting base which is Las Vegas but I extend our home recruiting base to southern California. And getting (USC transfer) Bryce Jones in the spring and now getting Katin we feel like that we got the two best available wing players out of LA the last two recruiting classes.
“Katin is a fearless competitor. He comes from Mater Dei where they’re accustomed to winning, and that’s a huge deal. He’s supremely confident and has a great work ethic. We think he has a chance to be a really special player at UNLV.”
Cook averaged 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists while earning second team All-Metro honors by the Baltimore Sun as a junior. With starting point guard Oscar Bellfield graduating after this season, he figures to see immediate playing time at UNLV.
“Daquan Cook is the perfect point guard for our Runnin’ Rebels system,” Rice said. “He’s a fierce competitor. He’s a pass-first point guard who’s really quick who can get the ball where he needs to on the floor but he’s also a capable scorer. I think that you recruit to your system and that’s what we did with Daquan. We think the way he plays is perfect for what we want to be.”
The Rebels got an early jump on Cook who was Rice’s first verbal commitment in July. Washington, Georgetown and Virginia Tech were among the other schools heavily involved for Cook, who was the MVP of the 16-and-under Super Showcase in Orlando, Fla.
Morant, an athletic dunker/shot blocker who averaged 7.3 points off the bench for the Gaels as a junior, is ranked as the nation’s No. 150 overall prospect by Rivals.com.
“Again, I think it is about fit,” Rice said. “In the system that we play, we need big guys who can run and jump and catch, and he can do all those things. Our transition game is a lot better with guys like Demetris who can run the floor. He already can go into a college game and have an effect on the defensive end from a shot-blocking standpoint. I think with his work ethic will put him in a situation where he’ll become an accomplished offensive player as well.”
Rice said the Rebels probably won’t use their other two scholarships until the spring signing period in April. UNLV has been mentioned as a possibility for several top 100 players including Bishop Gorman guard Shabazz Muhammad, the nation’s No. 1 prospect, and powerful Findlay Prep forward Anthony Bennett.