Rebels basketball:

Goodluck on its side: Okonoboh commits to UNLV

Massachusetts big man Goodluck Okonoboh joins Dwayne Morgan as an elite player in the Rebels’ class of 2014

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Courtesy of Adidas Super 64

Goodluck Okonoboh of Mass Rivals boxes out for a rebound during the Adidas Super 64 basketball tournament at Rancho High School, Wednesday, July 24, 2013.

Everyone knows good luck is key in Las Vegas, and now the Rebels have him on their side. Class of 2014 big man Goodluck Okonoboh today picked UNLV over Ohio State, Indiana, Duke and Florida.

“They had the best blueprint for me,” Okonoboh said. "I'm excited to be a Rebel."

Okonoboh announced his decision on ESPNU at halftime of a football game between Western Kentucky and Louisiana-Monroe. He joins Baltimore native Dwayne Morgan on UNLV’s list of 2014 commits. Findlay Prep guard Rashad Vaughn could make it three elite prospects in that class. He has scheduled an official visit to UNLV on Nov. 25-26.

Okonoboh is possibly a one-and-done player, the type UNLV may not have had a chance with before Anthony Bennett became the top overall pick in this year's draft.

"It was big but Anthony Bennett is Anthony Bennett and I'm Goodluck Okonoboh, so we'll see what I can be," Okonoboh said.

The race for Okonoboh really came down to UNLV and Ohio State. He took an official visit to both schools over the last week, first OSU for most the weekend and then at UNLV starting Sunday.

During his Buckeyes visit last Saturday, Okonoboh attended the Ohio State-Wisconsin football game at Ohio Stadium, nicknamed the Horseshoe. While on the sidelines he hung out with the Miami Heat’s LeBron James, an Ohio native who gave a pregame speech to the Buckeyes.

However, the Rebels got the last word as Okonoboh took a direct flight from Ohio to McCarran International Airport. His birthday was Monday and he celebrated at a Las Vegas restaurant.

Listed at 6-foot-9 and 220 pounds, Okonoboh attends Wilbraham and Monson Academy in Wilbraham, Mass. He also plays travel basketball for the Mass Rivals, who last July participated in the Adidas Super 64 tournament in Las Vegas.

Though he doesn’t like the offensive comparison, Okonoboh is often compared to former teammate Nerlens Noel, the sixth pick in June’s NBA Draft. Both players are known for their shot blocking and an offensive arsenal still in progress.

As for his unique first name, Okonoboh explained the background story to reporters while in Las Vegas last July. It’s a tale Rebels fans are about to become very familiar with:

Long story short: When my dad came to America, I was in my mom’s stomach. My mom was nine months pregnant and my dad was a taxi driver at the time. One day for work, he picked up three guys in black hoodies and he knew something was wrong that day. He ended up taking them to their destination and when they got there, he figured out it was a dead end. One of the guys for no reason shot my dad in the chest with a .22 caliber gun. And a .22 caliber bullet, when it hits you, it travels all around your body and the bullet slightly pierced his heart. He was in the hospital, it wasn’t looking good. The doctors said it would be rare if he makes it. My mom put him on life support for one day, and the next day everything was running fine. And the next week I was born, so he named me Goodluck because not everyone’s lucky enough to be a father.

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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