unlv basketball:

Rebel basketball fans mark their territory, cheer for recruit Shabazz Muhammad

More than 200 UNLV supporters are at Rancho HS for Friday morning game to continue their love affair with Gorman star

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Sam Morris

UNLV basketball fan Dennis Del Vecchio, center, and his son Christopher watch Rebel recruit Shabazz Muhammad play Friday in the adidas Super 64 AAU basketball tournament at Rancho High. More than 200 UNLV fans attended to cheer for Muhammad, a rising senior wing at Bishop Gorman and the nation’s No. 1 recruit.

adidas Super 64 - Shabazz Muhammad

Dream Vision's Shabazz Muhammad reaches for a loose ball while taking on the Atlanta Celtics Friday, July 22, 2011 during the adidas Super 64 tournament. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

Recruiting season hits its peak

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This week on LasVegasSun.com Sports Talk - doubling as The Rebel Room podcast - Ray Brewer and Ryan Greene break down a busy recruiting month for Dave Rice and his UNLV men's basketball staff. The crazy weekend in Las Vegas included three big tournaments, and the the guys will fill you in on who the staff made sure to go watch, who has emerged as the primary recruiting targets and who could likely be the next commit - or two - in the class of 2012.

More than one hour before prized UNLV basketball recruit Shabazz Muhammad was scheduled to take the court Friday morning at Rancho High School in the adidas Super 64 AAU basketball tournament, Rebel fans were already arriving at the gym near downtown Las Vegas to cheer for him.

Muhammad, a rising senior from Bishop Gorman High who is rated the nation’s No. 1 prospect by evaluating service Rivals.com, put on a show in scoring a game-high 39 points to help his Dream Vision 17s overcome a 12-point first-half deficit and beat the Atlanta Celtics, 87-80.

Each time Muhammad touched the ball, which usually resulted in the 6-foot-6 wing aggressively slashing to the basket for a dunk, the group of at least 200 UNLV fans seemed to get louder in their approval.

Call it marking their territory.

On the opposite side of the gym sat hundreds of college coaches scouting the tournament, with the likes of Kentucky’s John Calipari and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski front and center to watch Muhammad — a player they have aggressively pursued for the past year. UNLV’s Dave Rice and assistants Justin Huston and Stacey Augmon were also there. For Dream Vision's second game later Friday, Rebel legend Larry Johnson was attendance.

“We know (recruits) notice, just from the input we hear,” Rebel fan Dennis Del Vecchio said. “They notice the fans here and I think it means a lot to them, whether or not they (choose to attend UNLV).”

The hallways at Rancho resembled a UNLV home game at the Thomas & Mack Center, with fans dressed in Rebel gear from head to toe and old friends stopping each other to catch up. The fans coordinated on social media and fan websites to attend. After watching Muhammad, they raced across town to watch his Gorman teammate and another Rebel recruit Ben Carter.

The energy in the gym, especially when Muhammad touched the ball, showed this wasn’t your typical AAU game on the summer circuit. The fans’ logic is simple: continue to show Muhammad that playing for the Rebels is a viable option.

“Shabazz Muhammad is coming to UNLV, put it down,” Rebel fan Curtis Swarts said. “If we got Shabazz, we’d be looking at deep runs in the NCAA Tournament. He would bring the excitement back. He would also help with future recruits. People will follow him wherever he goes and we would get better players.”

Tournament director Ron Montoya said Muhammad’s game — the second of the morning — attracted so many fans that the facility reached its capacity of 1,500. Last year, the tournament didn’t sell that many tickets until the end of the day.

“He’s the No. 1 player in the country. Everyone wants to see the No. 1 player in the country,” Montoya said.

The appearance at this week’s tournament adds to what is already an aggressive approach by Rebel fans.

Fan Josh Meeter created a 30-second fake Nike commercial portraying Muhammad waving his arms to a crowd while wearing a No. 15 UNLV jersey. There is also an account on Twitter with the handle UNLVluvsShabazz.

The attention hasn’t gone unnoticed by Muhammad and his family. “That’s amazing how supportive those guys are. It’s impressive,” said Ron Holmes, Muhammad’s father.

That’s music to the ears of the UNLV diehards.

“He is a game-changer,” Del Vecchio said. “That’s the bottom line. He is a game-changer. He’s that guy.”

The Rebel fans gave a similar following to other top recruiting targets. Katin Reinhardt, a guard from powerhouse Mater Dei in Southern California, was thrilled with the turnout for his Fab 48 game for Belmont Shore at Gorman.

"Shout out to all the UNLV fans who came and watched me today! Love the support, and shout out to all the coaches who showed up! Blessed," Reinhardt tweeted Friday afternoon.

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  1. Way to go UNLV fans. I thank you for giving up your day to help the cause.

  2. That is awesome! Well done, Rebel fans!