Saturday, May 5, 2012

Half an update: Birch's disposition and Bennett's final three

Jimmy Kimmel tweets to Anthony Bennett

While this won't be the next preview (next and final is guards), there was two significant Runnin' Rebels news stories that came out this week and are worth noting as well as discussing.

A Good Khem Birch Interview

Those who miss Ryan Greene's take on the Runnin' Rebels look no further than Vegas Seven, the weekly which has a section and website under the moniker, Scooping the other news outlets, Mr. Greene interviewed Khem Birch, and bounced aspects of his game and worth ethic off of Coach Rice to complete the piece. The article in it's entirety can be found here: Link.

While the whole article is plenty interesting, the part I'd like to discuss is Birch's stance on playing center. As should be noted and is well established in news stories, Khem departed Pitt among other reasons, because he did not want to play Center. Clarifying his position on playing the five spot, Khem says he didn't want to play with his back to the basket, in the slow half-court offense that Pitt ran. He doesn't mind playing center in Coach Rice's transition offense because of potential mismatches.

Drawing my own conclusions from his words on the subject, he doesn't appear adverse per-se to the center position anymore, so likely much more emphasis in not liking his former teammates or the offensive sets the team was running. That's kind of a really bold reason why one would transfer, especially given the chronology of events that brought him to UNLV. Distilling that, Birch was unhappy early in the season at Pitt, he just so happens to see the UNLV-UNC game where UNLV runs and is dominant most of the game, and then after electing to transfer he picks UNLV over Florida.

Their loss is our gain for certain, and my roster preview albeit assumed that he would be playing the five spot rather than the four was part wishful thinking and logical conclusions - but the guess was on the money. So, to have another really legitimate center option after the fall semester, and one of his caliber is intriguing to say the least. It also shows the maturity of Khem, being willing to play the same position he supposedly despised for the Rebels. This should work out very well.

Bennett's Final Three

Not that long ago, teams were being cut and UNLV didn't make it into the dress cricle. That was the disappointment which became Shabazz Muhammad's ridiculous 'the decision' show. Rebels fans have reason to be hopeful, and its because we are in the final cut of destinations for the best unsigned high school senior in the nation. Anthony Bennett has reportedly narrowed his list to UNLV, Oregon, and Kentucky. Gone is Florida - which was considered a favorite after they had a similarly tall player transfer out, but their hopes diminished when Bradley Beal declared for the NBA Draft. According to this story, he and Bradley were close and he would have loved to play with him - hence Florida was in the running, but no more.

The downside is many have Kentucky as a strong front runner now to land Bennett. Any why not, Kentucky is essentially the Barbie's of the college basketball world - 'that bitch has to have everything'. The positive take away is that Bennett just finished an official visit to UNLV, and was thrilled with the staff. Clearly, there are several good things going for us -- a staff he likes, facilities everyone should love, and a long time friend - the aformentioned Khem Birch. If Bennett held high regard for Florida because he had a friend on the roster - then we are in a good position with Birch not going anywhere for at least a year.

I'm optimistic on this one. I think Bennett knows Kentucky's championship run was a rare event, largely enabled by consensus #1 draft pick Anthony Davis. It will be a very difficult feat to repeat, and being the team who follows a championship team and failing to bring a championship is an expectation and burden few would want to have to deal with. Anthony Bennett's hopefully not the type who believes he has to be on Kentucky's roster to be noticed by NBA scouts, and knows merely being associated won't help his draft position. He likely knows UNLV will be scary good next year, especially if he is a part of the magic. Come on Las Vegas, let's fly a Canadian flag for Mr. Bennett and land a top 10 prospect!

Update: Anthony Bennett has spurned Kentucky's scholarship and is down to between Oregon and UNLV.  Officially, Bennett had said his decision would come in two weeks (this was about a week ago), so his decision grows ever closer. LV SUN.

Another update: Anthony Bennett has tweeted Monday evening that his decision will come this weekend.

Final update: ANTHONY BENNETT CHOOSES UNLV! Full story coming Sunday (late night today)

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