UNLV's new center should improve the Rebels on both sides of the ball as the team attempts to climb out of the Mountain West cellar.
It should come as no surprise to college basketball fans that freshmen have come to possess a significant portion of the star power in the sport. Just look at this year’s NBA draft, where the first upperclassman was not selected until Duke sophomore Luke Kennard with 12th pick. So while some returning players will undoubtedly have a major impact in 2017–18 season, it’s important to get to know the new faces who may come to occupy the spotlight.
With that in mind, SI.com will be introducing you to the top 25 incoming freshmen in college basketball and breaking down the impact those players could have this season. We move to the No. 10 overall recruit, UNLV center Brandon McCoy.
What he means for UNLV’s recruiting class
Heading into his second year at UNLV, coach Marvin Menzies now has a McDonald’s All-American in the frontcourt to shape his rebuild around. After losing five of his eight top scorers from last season’s squad, which won just three games after New Year’s Eve on its way to the Mountain West basement, Menzies landed McCoy to headline a six-man recruiting class that also includes forward Shakur Juiston, the nation’s top-ranked junior college transfer. McCoy chose the Runnin’ Rebels over Arizona, Michigan State and Oregon, among others, and his decision was followed by the commitments of Juiston and guard Amauri Hardy, bumping UNLV up to No. 18 in Scout.com’s rankings.
How he fits
UNLV’s returning fives were non-factors on the offensive end of the floor last year, forcing Menzies to rely on lineups that didn’t have the size to match up with many opponents. McCoy averaged a shade over 28 points and 12 rebounds in his senior year of high school, and he brings a polished touch around the rim that should totally reset the Rebels’ halfcourt options. Though he is also comfortable with the ball outside the paint, how well McCoy holds up physically inside while getting starter’s minutes could determine how big of a leap the Rebels make this year. Odds are they won’t be shy about throwing him into the fire.
If not for all the new blood on the roster, UNLV would appear to have a long journey back up the Mountain West ladder ahead of it—many of last year’s conference losses weren’t even close. As it stands, there’s room for UNLV to rejoin the pack fighting for tourney bids if McCoy and the other newcomers jell quickly. League champion Nevada will be replacing three starters and runner-up Colorado State lost its top two scorers and rebounders. The added muscle inside should bring the Rebels’ adjusted field goal percentage (45.1% last year, tied for 338th nationally) back up to respectability and make them a tougher out.