When I had a little time to myself, I decided to sit down and gush about something that’s been on my mind for a while and something I’d dedicated a lot of thought to. Needless to say, the Runnin’ Rebels of 2012-2013 will be a brand new, almost transcendent team, and expectations run high. My best guess of what all this means is…it’s just why my expectations are high. I hope you enjoy it. – A.K.
When hometown superstar and #1 ranked high school recruit Shabazz Muhammad announced that the University of Nevada – Las Vegas was officially no longer on his list of potential schools, the reaction from Runnin’ Rebel fans was, to say the least, surprising.
Any other mid-major fan base would probably have deflated after finding out their school missed out on the country’s best high school basketball player. Five years ago, if you asked the average UNLV fan walking down Las Vegas Boulevard what they thought of the Rebels whiffing on a high-profile, hometown standout, they wouldn’t bother to feign surprise.
When Muhammad, who recently completed his time at Las Vegas’s Bishop Gorman High School, limited his choices to Kentucky and UCLA, the vibe from UNLV fans was far from one of shock. Hell, they didn’t even act disappointed. They looked to the horizon and said, “better luck next time.”
That better luck came about three weeks later when another hometown hoops star named Anthony Bennett announced his commitment to play for the Runnin’ Rebels. Bennett, who attends the local Findlay College Preparatory Academy, was the best remaining recruit at the time.
This time, UNLV fans were animated. Bennett gave the city the jolt that they hoped to get from Muhammad. Now, you can’t talk to any Runnin’ Rebel fan without them assuring you the team will be ranked in the pre-season top 10.
The local sports media exploded with excitement. Students on UNLV’s campus began buzzing about the new member of the team, and those who were there for the magical runs made by the Rebels in the eighties and nineties began to reminisce about their team’s former glory, and how it might be restored.