Tuesday, April 25, 2023 | 2 a.m.
UNLV coach Kevin Kruger struck it big in the transfer portal last week, landing three commitments from impact players in the span of one afternoon.
The additions of forward Jalen Hill (Oklahoma), center Kalib Boone (Oklahoma State) and wing Keylan Boone (Pacific) have remade the roster, injecting length, physicality and versatility across the board. And all three are grad transfers, so regardless of whether Kruger goes with Luis Rodriguez or Justin Webster at shooting guard, the Scarlet and Gray will almost certainly field a starting lineup consisting of at least four fifth-year seniors.
Now the attention shifts to that fifth starter.
UNLV looks like a potential NCAA Tournament team, save for one big missing piece: a point guard to run the show.
“The focus will be on getting a ballhandler and decision-maker to fit in with the group we have,” Kruger said. “We want somebody who can protect the ball and make plays in that regard.”
UNLV lost its starting point guard when Keshon Gilbert transferred to Iowa State shortly after the season ended. In response, one of Kruger’s first portal targets was Pepperdine junior Mike Mitchell, but he committed to Minnesota, leaving the Scarlet and Gray still in need of a floor general.
Kruger and his staff then shifted most of their recruiting focus to Hill and the Boone twins. Now that they’re in the fold, it’s back to point guard.
While there has been a lot of movement in the portal since then, Kruger believes there are still available players capable of steering UNLV toward a postseason berth.
“There are definitely guys out there that we think can do that,” Kruger said.
One prominent option is Southern Utah point guard Drake Allen. He averaged 11.0 points and a team-high 3.7 assists for the Thunderbirds last year while shooting 49.8% from the field and making 35.5% of his 3-point attempts. UNLV is recruiting Allen, and he has also heard from Utah, BYU, Bowling Green and San Jose State.
If the market for true point guards goes dry, Kruger could pivot to a wing player with the necessary poise and court vision to initiate the offense.
“It may not be what everybody envisions as a dribble-up-the-court point guard,” Kruger said. “It’s being able to run a team when you’re out there and be a leader on the court.”
The portal isn’t the only source for new recruits. It’s a long shot, but if UNLV is able to reel in their top prep target — local Class of 2024 point guard D.J. Thomas — the Rebels might be able to convince him to graduate from Liberty this summer and join the team in time for the 2023-24 season.
Thomas has UNLV in his final six, along with Florida, Houston, Arizona, Gonzaga and UCLA, and he and Kruger have discussed the possibility of reclassifying.
Wherever the point guard comes from, Kruger is hopeful it’ll be the final piece to a tournament push.
Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.