UNLV was doing pretty darn well under Lon Kruger. When Kruger opted to take the rebuilding job at Oklahoma a year ago, Dave Rice came back to his alma mater with hopes of keeping his Rebels runnin’ without any slowdown.
Whatever the second-year head coach is doing, it’s working. The Rebs won 26 games last season, and returned to the NCAA tournament for the third time in as many seasons. Rice is now beginning to put his own stamp on the team with his 2012 recruiting class, which already included Katin Reinhardt, Demetris Morant and DaQuan Cook, as well as Pitt transfer Khem Birch. To those luminaries, Rice has just added Findlay Prep forward Anthony Bennett. Bennett’s Twitter announcement was short and sweet: ”Staying out west and will be going to UNLV next year.”
(C)omparisons to former UNLV great Larry Johnson will be inevitable for Bennett. His power, agility and toughness immediately call to memory the game of Johnson in the glory years at UNLV. Bennett is a native of Canada that spent the last couple seasons playing at a high school basketball powerhouse in Findlay Prep, where he was on a star-studded team.
He had a non-traditional recruitment in that he took no official visits, and cut Kentucky and Florida from his list before naming UNLV and Oregon as finalists.
We may want to wait a bit before anointing Bennett as the next Grandmama, but the comparisons are flattering, to say the least. In fact, since Rice played with LJ back in the day, we’ll believe it if and when he puts his stamp of approval on the hyperbole.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.