The UNLV Runnin' Rebels capitalized on their recent success in securing a commitment Monday from Rivals.com five-star recruit
"rivals.yahoo.com/unlv/basketball/recruiting/player-Khem-Birch-104028">Khem Birch, a 6-foot-9 power forward who started in six games this season for the University of Pittsburgh.
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Birch, who cited playing style and his role with the Panthers as reason for his departure, visited New Mexico State, Florida and UNLV this past week before announcing his decision.
During his presence, the Panthers were 9-1. Since his departure, Pitt has dropped four of six games. Birch averaged 4.4 points and 5.0 rebounds per game for the Panthers while going for a career high 15 points and 10 rebounds against Pennsylvania in November.
After playing his high school ball at Fitchburg (Mass.) Notre Dame Prep, the McDonald's All-American was highly coveted, receiving offers from Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Ohio State and Texas, among others.
Birch, who is a long, athletic post player that should fit in well with UNLV's up-tempo system, was rated as the No. 1 power forward and the No. 4 player overall in the 2012 class before reclassifying as a 2011 player. After his reclassification, Rivals rated him as the No. 4 power forward and 9th best overall in the Class of 2011.
Birch adds to a short list of former McDonald's All-Americans that have committed to the Rebels. Though he never played for the Rebels, Lamar Odom was the last when he committed to UNLV back in 1997 before moving on to Rhode Island.
In all, seven McDonald's All-Americans have played for the Rebels, three directly from high school and four via transfer: Larry Johnson from Skyline Junior College in 1987, Elmore Spencer from the University of Georgia in 1987, Freddie Banks of Las Vegas (Nev.) Valley in 1983, Eldridge Hudson of Carson (Calif.) High in 1982, Anthony Jones from Georgetown University in 1981, John Flowers from Indiana University in 1981 and Sidney Green from Brooklyn (N.Y.) Thomas Jefferson in 1979.
Birch, who is Canadian, is close with Anthony Bennett of Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep, who the Rebels are heavily recruiting. Bennett recently trimmed his extensive list of schools down to five, in which UNLV is included.
Because Birch played this season at Pitt, he will have to sit out a full year due to NCAA transfer rules. As such, upon immediately enrolling at UNLV for the spring semester, Birch would be eligible to play for the Rebels after the fall semester of 2012 finishes in mid-December. He will be allowed to practice with the squad as soon as he's enrolled in school.
More details on Rebel-Net.com's Confidential Forum.
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