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March 27, 2013

Morgan makes UNLV his choice

Baltimore small forward, Dwayne Morgan, had his opportunity to become a hometown hero in the Beltway area for either Maryland or Georgetown when he made his collegiate decision.

Instead, the opportunity to help revitalize a former national powerhouse was enough to entice the No. 13 ranked player in the 2014 class.

On Wednesday, Morgan, a five-star, made his announcement that he will be heading to Las Vegas and joining the UNLV basketball program after concluding his senior season at St. Frances High School.

Morgan's decision proves that the coolness factor is definitely back for the Runnin' Rebels, despite being knocked out of the NCAA Tournament in their first game for a fourth straight season.

This was definitely aided by Anthony Bennett's choice of the Rebels a year ago. Bennett, who declared for the NBA Draft and is near lock for the upcoming Lottery selection, only played one season for head coach Dave Rice, but the way Rice handled the future one-and-done player resonated, especially for a player with Morgan's talents.

"Dwayne had the toughest decision in his life," Morgan's mentor, Dwayne Wise, said. "Three great universities, but only one choice. You have a local team with history and great academics in Georgetown and another local school on the rise in Maryland.

"UNLV offered something different. He watched (Anthony) Bennett and envisioned his own success because of his skill set and the style of play of the Rebels."

That style of play included Bennett being able to play in the paint and also showing off his range from beyond the arc. Morgan's game may not mimic Bennett's entirely, but he has many of the same skills that Bennett possesses.

There were plenty of ups and downs for a youthful Rebel squad this year. Thankfully, Morgan was at the Thomas & Mack Center for one of the highlights for UNLV. Morgan and his mother showed up for the Rebels' 64-55 thrashing of New Mexico back in January.

It wasn't just the fireworks or Bennett's freedom that caught Morgan's attention that night. The love from the fans and the atmosphere made Morgan and his mother Tabitha Chambers feel quite comfortable.

Wise said, "Dwayne and his mother fell in love with the fans at UNLV and felt like it was home."

Options weren't an issue for Morgan when it came to deciding on a school. He had offers from nearly every major program, including Indiana, Florida and UConn. It was the relationship that he forged with the UNLV coaching staff that put the Rebels in the driver's seat over the weekend, despite Georgetown making a final push late.

"The most significant factor was his trust in the Rebel staff," Wise said of what made the Rebels the ultimate landing spot. "UNLV and Georgetown continued to recruit, even after the NCAA selections were announced. (Georgetown coach) John Thompson III and assistant coach Kevin Broadus did a great job closing the gap."

At 6-foot-8 and 190-pounds and still growing, Morgan is known for his energy on the court that makes him a tough matchup on both ends of the floor. On offense, he can go inside and out, while being a sticky defender that wreaks havoc with his long arms and quick feet.

Morgan will be in the Las Vegas area to play for the first time this June when he competes in an event sponsored by Under Armour.

This is the first commitment for UNLV in the 2014 class. If Morgan is selected to the McDonald's All-American game, which appears likely at this point, it would give the Rebels three former McDonald's players on the roster at one time (Khem Birch, Jelan Kendrick) when Morgan comes aboard.

The sting of another NCAA tournament ouster may take a little while to leave for UNLV fans, but there's no denying with players like Morgan headed to Las Vegas that it's not if but when the Rebels will be back in the national spotlight.

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



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