Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Monday, July 8, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Dwayne Morgan took criticism in March from some in his hometown of Baltimore when he verbally committed to the UNLV basketball program.
They couldn’t understand why the five-star recruit would turn down regional schools Maryland and Georgetown to play for the Rebels, and they took to Twitter to express their disappointment with the 6-foot-7 forward.
On Saturday, Morgan confirmed his commitment to the scarlet and gray. He was in Las Vegas for the first time since his recruiting trip last winter, playing in the LeBron James Skills Academy at Cashman Center.
“I love it here already,” he said. “I have only been here two times, and I love coming here. I live across the country, and I feel like I am home (in Las Vegas).”
Morgan is ranked as the nation’s No. 12 overall prospect for the class of 2014 by Rivals.com, impressing some evaluators this offseason with his performances at showcase camps such as the skills academy in Las Vegas.
At the Pangos All-American camp in early June, Morgan thrived against 120 of the nation’s top high school players in being classified as one of the camp’s top performers. Multiple websites covering the event gave encouraging reviews, saying his athleticism and high energy will be assets at UNLV.
“Dwayne Morgan is a steal for the UNLV Running Rebels in the class of 2014,” wrote areacodesbasketball.com. “Morgan gave a verbal a while ago and expect to see a high energy impact player. The 6 foot 8 wing can do it all and can score, the coaching staff did a great job getting this recruit to play for a high major program.”
He’ll become the most-decorated high school player to sign — the fall signing period is Nov. 13 to 20 — with UNLV since McDonald’s All-American Anthony Bennett in the 2012 class. Bennett stayed one season before being selected No. 1 overall in the NBA draft two weeks ago.
Morgan was excited when he heard Bennett’s name called.
“AB. Rebels. Rebels for life,” Morgan said. “When I saw it, I actually wanted to go to the gym. I called my trainer that night and asked if he could get in the gym, but he said it was too late. When I saw AB, Anthony Bennett, get picked No. 1, my mother yelled; I yelled.”
Like Bennett, some feel Morgan could immediately impact the UNLV lineup. He’s a matchup problem defensively because of his height, long arms and accurate outside shooting.
And he’s only getting better.
Morgan has spent the offseason developing his game away from the basket, especially his ball-handling skills. In a scrimmage Saturday at the camp, which featured 90 top high school players, Morgan buried two 3-pointers and showed confidence with the ball in his hands away from the basket.
Morgan even talked about becoming so proficient handling the ball that he could play a little "point forward at UNLV." Ironically, his team at the end-of-camp scrimmage was coached by Grant Rice, UNLV coach Dave Rice’s brother. No college coaches were permitted to attend; Grant Rice coaches at Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas.
“There is a lot of competition. Everyone here can play, so you have to bring your A game,” he said.
Morgan has been hindered the past few months with an injured thumb, saying it has bothered him in other events. But it hasn’t slowed his development, especially in the weight room, where he’s added 15 pounds to his frame. Still, he’s listed at 190 pounds and extremely lanky.
Morgan plays at St. Frances Academy in Baltimore, which is where rising UNLV sophomore guard Daquan Cook played. Also UConn transfer Roscoe Smith is from Baltimore, giving the Rebels a Baltimore pipeline. Assistant Heath Schroyer is a Maryland native.
“Rebels, that’s all I can say,” Morgan said.