Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011 | 11:30 a.m.
A date, time, location and even a television deal for one of the nation's most anticipated high school basketball games this season is set.
The fourth meeting between national powers Findlay Prep and Bishop Gorman High will take 2 p.m. Jan. 21, at the Cox Pavilion. ESPNU will air the game live.
The date for the game was set in mid-August, but the venue was the final detail that helped put everything into place. Also considered were the South Point Arena and the Orleans Arena.
With the game taking place at the Cox Pavilion, it will set up what should be an outstanding day of basketball on the UNLV campus. The Gorman-Findlay game will be followed by the 7 p.m. showdown between UNLV and New Mexico next door at the Thomas & Mack Center. That game will pit the top two teams in the Mountain West Conference against each other and will easily be the Rebels' most anticipated home date of the 2011-12 campaign.
"I guess it would be like playing the BCS championship game and the Super Bowl on the same day a little bit," Findlay Prep coach Mike Peck said. "I think it'll be a day people will look forward to, plan their week around, when they wake up that morning, plan their whole day centered around those games.
"From a Las Vegas basketball fan's standpoint, I don't know if it gets any better."
According to Gorman coach Grant Rice, there will likely be a certain amount of pre-sale tickets for the game, but details for that are not yet known.
Last year's double-overtime thriller was also played at the Cox Pavilion, and this year's installment of the fledgling rivalry should be just as exciting.
In 2009, the game was played at the Orleans, while the first showdown in 2008 took place at Gorman.
Both the 2009 and 2010 games coincided with UNLV games at the Orleans and the Mack, respectively, which is something Rice said he and Peck have tried to make a regular staple for when their teams meet.
"We really wanted to make it good for the fans," he said, noting the time fans will have to go out and eat in the area between the two games. "They've really been coming out and supporting both our programs, so we wanted to give something back to them."
Findlay Prep has won all three previous meetings, but the talent gap between the two has narrowed significantly over the last four years.
The Pilots, who last spring fell short of winning a third consecutive ESPN Rise National High School Invitational, will feature an overhauled roster, with eight of their 12 players being new to the program.
And they're tall. Eight of Findlay's 12 players stand at at least 6-foot-8.
The small corps of returners includes rapidly-improving junior point guard Nigel Williams-Goss along with seniors Winston Shepard — a versatile, heavily-recruited swingman — and Anthony Bennett — one of the nation's top 10 senior recruits built in the mold of former UNLV great Larry Johnson.
A talent-rich group of newcomers includes point guard Dominic Artis — a UCLA commit — power forward Brandon Ashley — a recent Arizona commit — rising seniors Amedeo Della Valle and Matt Willms and junior forward Christian Wood, who committed to UNLV back in July.
On the Gorman side, the headliner is 6-foot-6 senior guard/forward Shabazz Muhammad, who locals have buzzed about for years and is now the consensus No. 1 prospect in the 2012 class.
Muhammad leads a group out to avenge last season's bitter end, which came in a shocking loss to Reno's Bishop Manogue in the state semifinals.
Alongside him in a loaded senior class is multi-talented 6-foot-9 wing Rosco Allen, skilled and technically sound 6-foot-8 forward Ben Carter and UNLV commit Demetris Morant – a 6-foot-8 forward with a raw offensive game, but off-the-charts athleticism.
Some of the younger up-and-comers playing for Rice include junior guard Rashad Muhammad, sophomore point guard Noah Robotham and highly-touted 6-foot-11 freshman Stephen Zimmerman, who will come off of the bench for Grant Rice's varsity squad and already holds scholarship offers from the likes of UNLV, UCLA, Kansas and UConn.
"I think considering the fact that we have a senior-oriented team this year, it's a big game for our kids," Rice said back in August. "They've never beaten Findlay. It's a rivalry, but a friendly rivalry. It's not heated. A lot of the kids work out together, some play AAU ball together, and our staffs are really close.
"We've closed the gap some. We're hoping to continue that this year."