LAS VEGAS -- Here's Thursday's Dear Gary ...
Dear Gary: Not only did UNLV pick-up Tre'Von Willis (as a transfer) from Memphis, it recently added Derrick Jasper (as a transfer) from Kentucky and didn't get much press. Not to mention Beas Hamga was the most-prized center short of Kevin Love last year. I'd put them right after Miami at No. 18 in the preseason Top 25 (and one).
Lon Kruger really has UNLV going these days, and I'm not sure the average fan realizes he's won 57 games the past two seasons. The addition of Willis will help and Jasper could be really good in the Mountain West once he gains his eligibility, though I must slightly disagree on Hamga. Don't get me wrong, he's good. But to suggest he was the "most-prized center short of Kevin Love" in the Class of 2007 is revisionist history. DeAndre Jordan and Kosta Koufos were both rated higher than Hamga, and you could argue that among big men in general (meaning forwards and centers) he was also behind DeJuan Blair, J.J. Hickson and A.J. Ogilvy (not to mention Michael Beasley, Patrick Patterson and Blake Griffin).
But anyway, that's not the point.
The point is that you should be excited about UNLV (which is why I have the Rebels at No. 22) and the set-up Kruger has in place to keep it going. Not only is the lure of Vegas a natural recruiting tool, but he can also sell his NBA experience. Meanwhile, there's -- how to say this, exactly? -- an "agreeable" prep school here called Findlay Prep that should act as a feeder system going forward, and it never hurts that several huge summer basketball events are in Las Vegas every summer. In fact, it's hard not to notice that UNLV has more than the usual three coaches out and about this week because schools are not bound by the same NCAA restrictions for events within 30 miles of campus. Thus, UNLV has free reign this week and by extension more eyes and a presence in more places as these three major summer tournaments move forward and coaches position themselves to sign a class that can keep the wins coming.