Tuesday, April 12, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
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Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Case Keefer and Ray Brewer talk about the excitement surrounding the hiring of Dave Rice as the UNLV basketball coach. Rice, a reserve on the 1990 national championship team, will look to bring the program back to its ways of playing run-and-gun basketball.
New UNLV basketball coach Dave Rice has already scored a minor victory on the recruiting trail. Not bad for one day on the job.
Small forward Shabazz Muhammad of Bishop Gorman High, a consensus top-5 overall recruit by several evaluating services for the class of 2012, will eventually take a recruiting trip to UNLV, his father, Ron Holmes said Monday.
Holmes was in the crowd at the Board Room at the Thomas & Mack Center for Rice’s introductory news conference, saying Rice’s up-tempo style of play and talk of the program’s past successes were appealing.
With the likes of Duke, Kansas and North Carolina heavily pursuing Muhammad, it was widely assumed UNLV would have no chance at landing the athletic 6-foot-6 rising senior.
That is no longer the case
Rice’s younger brother, Grant Rice, is Gorman’s head coach, giving the new Rebels staff a leg up in the process. Holmes said his son is more than interested in UNLV — and that has everything to do with Dave Rice.
“Without a doubt, UNLV will be right there,” Holmes said of the Rebels’ chances to sign his son.
Grant Rice also attended his brother’s introductory press conference, where Dave jokingly said family gatherings would be strained if recruiting doesn’t pan out at Gorman.
“We’ll never run away from the expectations,” said Dave Rice, who returned to UNLV after six years as an assistant at BYU. “We believe we are going to recruit really good players, put together a coaching staff that will recruit across the country and put together really good teams.”
Muhammad, who averaged 25 points per game this past winter in being named the Sunset Region's Player of the Year, would be a good starting point. He has 20-plus scholarship offers and is arguably the biggest recruit in Southern Nevada history. But he’s not the only prospect at Gorman that UNLV will be after.
Gorman is loaded with multiple Division I recruits, including two more from the class of 2012 already with scholarship offers from the Rebels. Forward Rosco Allen, who Rivals.com ranks as the No. 23 overall prospect for the class of 2012, was also offered a scholarship by Rice to BYU. The same with forward Ben Carter.
The coaches aren’t alone in selling the program to locals.
Anthony Marshall, the Rebels’ rising junior guard from Mojave High in North Las Vegas, has become the face of the program and takes great pride in playing for his hometown university. He’s close friends with Muhammad and never hesitates selling him on the program.
“For me, it was just being able to be a role model in the community,” Marshall said. “I wanted to show the younger guys that you could stay here and be successful. For me coming here, it opens the door for younger guys like Shabazz to come here. He is like a younger brother to me, so I am trying to convince him to stay.”
Former UNLV player Warren Rosegreen, who played at Chaffey Junior College in California and UNLV when Dave Rice was an assistant, remembers Rice selling him on becoming a Rebel. He said Rice is able to deliver such a strong message because of his sincere passion for UNLV.
“I don’t believe the community understands who they have yet, but they will know,” said Rosegreen, who considers the Rice brothers two of his closest friends. “He brings a lot to the table in getting guys to believe what you want to accomplish. They are very fortunate to get a coach like him. We are on our way back to great things with Dave.”
That passion was obvious to one important observer.
“I already knew the style he was trying to put in place, the coaching staff he wants to bring aboard, it is really exciting,” Holmes said.