The UNLV Sports Beat: Runnin’ Rebels Snag “Hometown Hero”
Ask any local in Las Vegas- it’s been several years since UNLV basketball has been a spectator-draw in the booming Vegas sports scene. The rise of professional sports in Las Vegas has cast a shadow over the glow that used to emanate from the Thomas and Mack Center, where the Runnin’ Rebels once reigned. Indeed, the reign of the Rebels may have ended a long time ago, but local fans still maintain hope that the UNLV Basketball program can rise to great heights again.
Head coach T.J. Otzelberger is still formulating his winning strategy at UNLV, and the pressure of a storied past will weigh heavily on any coach at the school. But, this week Coach “O” may have received the best news that he’s had at UNLV since his tenure began: a nationally top-ranked recruit has decided to commit to the Runnin’ Rebels basketball program. Who is this coveted recruit? Zaon Collins.
Even better for Coach “O,” UNLV fans, and the program as a whole, Collins hails from the talented local high school of Bishop Gorman. As a show-stopping guard, Collins had his choices in what has become more of a shooter’s game where guards reign supreme. Other than UNLV, some of his options included the likes of USC and Arizona (among several others).
In a Twitter statement that Collins made using UNLV letterhead and the bright lights of the city in the background, he acknowledged the other college programs that sought out his talents. After thanking the various groups and mentors who fostered his skills along the way, he finished his message with the words that every Rebel fan loves to hear: “I’ve decided to stay true to my hometown and become a UNLV Runnin’ Rebel.”
There’s nothing more endearing to fans of any sport than when a hometown talent decides to remain loyal to the community that helped develop him. There’s no doubt that Collins will feel the loyalty right back from Rebel fans. In fact, the hashtag “HometownHero” was used in reply to Collins’announcement.
Collins’ will come into UNLV as a four-star recruit. On the ESPN 100, he is presently ranked at 37th. Listed at 6’1, his versatility as a point guard will be much needed for a team that will seek a floor general in the upcoming season.
And there’s no doubt that the UNLV Basketball program needs a good reason to attend games (if that’s possible when basketball season begins). In the most recent seasons, the Thomas and Mack Center has suffered from dwindling attendance. The high expectations lingering from the Tarkanian days combined with the more recent excitement from the Lon Kruger era led to some disappointments following the Dave Rice period. Collins’ commitment to UNLV may be the spark for the next generation of success under Coach “O.”