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July 29, 2012

Style matters

It was something that was on the tip of every recruit I talked to this weekend when broaching them about the subject of the UNLV Runnin' Rebels.

And it's the reason why Dave Rice and his coaching staff have become so successful in such a short time while out on the hunt for the top talent around the nation.

No, it's not because these young men relish to be a part of the "glory" years that once were at UNLV. No, it's not because Rice, Justin Hutson, Heath Schroyer and Stacey Augmon are such quality guys. And, no, it's not because Las Vegas is such a unique city with no other game in town with rabid fans.

Obviously, those factors aren't hurting the Rebels' case, but they aren't the reason that UNLV has found itself hauling in a Top 10 class in 2012, while looking to keep up that momentum with more blue-chippers.

It's all about style.

These kids see it and believe it. When Rice preaches to them about having freedom on offense, running up and down the floor, being able to express yourself, he isn't throwing a bunch of bologna at these recruits. He's speaking the truth.

And that message is being heard loud and clear across the nation by these high school stars that were once thought to be unattainable while competing in the Mountain West Conference.

Rice has changed the overall impression recruits have of the Rebels almost overnight. How did he do it? He did by not telling these guys what they want to hear and then backing away from that initial message.

So many times coaches tell a potential recruit exactly what they want to hear just to land the player. Once they get on campus, everything changes.

Rice doesn't do that. He proves it by the actions of his players. The roster itself is living proof that Rice is a man of his word. When recruits come on campus for a visit, the current players should have no qualms about telling them what type of coach they will be playing for.

You want freedom? Come to UNLV. You want to showcase your skills? Come to UNLV. You want to play with other highly skilled players that make the game easier for you? Come to UNLV.

That's really all Rice has to say at this point. These players already are seeing it and they love what they are witnessing.

There's already documentation on the fact that watching UNLV defeat North Carolina at the Orleans Arena was the deciding factor for transfer Khem Birch. The Rebels looked their best that night. They went into that contest with a free roll and turned it into 12 the hard way with a loose approach that was evident throughout the country.

Style brought Birch. Style brought California standout Katin Reinhardt. Style helped land Anthony Bennett. And style will continue to bring in these standouts. It's just a matter of time.

It couldn't have been more evident to me whenever five-star shooting guard, Isaac Hamilton, who pretty much named the entire Division I when mentioning his list of schools, said in regards to UNLV.

"What kid wouldn't want to play in (UNLV's) system?," is what Hamilton, ranked No. 12 in the nation stated.

Former NBA star, Reggie Miller, echoed those statements earlier this season whenever he did color for the UNLV-New Mexico game at the Thomas & Mack Center. He couldn't say enough positives about the way the Rebels do things in regards to letting their players be the best they can be.

Sure, results are going to be necessary because there is going to be a ton of pressure to win, and win big, with these types of recruits. But the old adage is that players win championships, not coaches.

Rice has found a way to get the players. And he did it the "UNLV" way.

For more in-depth information, be sure to check out Rebel-Confidential.



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