Rebels basketball:

Junior college recruit impressed with UNLV’s style in Wednesday’s win

Torian Graham said he enjoyed himself at the Thomas & Mack Center despite a sparse crowd. UNLV plays again Friday against Sacred Heart

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Steve Marcus

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels fans try to distract a Radford University Highlander as he attempts a foul shot during the first game of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic at the Thomas & Mack Center Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013.

The Rebels’ lowest home attendance of the season still seemed pretty impressive to junior college guard Torian Graham.

“The arena felt like home,” Graham said.

A 6-foot-5, 180-pound sophomore at Chipola Junior College in Florida, Graham was on an official visit to UNLV from Tuesday to Thursday. He watched UNLV’s 81-62 victory against Radford from the stands Wednesday night and will leave town just before tonight’s matchup against Sacred Heart (2-9). The game tips at 7 p.m. and will stream on UNLVRebels.com via the Mountain West Network.

The game will likely bring out no more than the 11,547 announced attendance Wednesday. The student section was especially empty because of winter break.

Wednesday’s win against Radford gave UNLV its first winning streak of the season — two games — and included the team’s second-highest point total of the season. That was advantageous since Graham, much like pretty much every recruit on UNLV’s radar in the Dave Rice era, said a big part of his interest is the Rebels’ style. Or at least the style they sell.

“I like the up-tempo style of play,” Graham said. “They get out and play in transition.”

The Rebels’ adjusted tempo this season is 70.5 possessions per game, according to kenpom.com. That’s the most of Rice’s tenure, but it ranks lower nationally (79th) because possessions are up across the country.

Against Radford, the Rebels scored 13 points off turnovers. Many of those same baskets accounted for their 13 fast-break points.

Whether the Rebels will ever play as fast as recruits think they do remains to be seen, but the stats aren’t hurting UNLV on the recruiting trail. Graham is considered one of the top available junior college players in the country, and said he’s also considering Florida, Missouri, Kentucky and USC. His strength is scoring from the wing.

Graham, a Durham, N.C., native, landed at Chipola because he failed to qualify academically. He had planned to enroll at North Carolina State.

Since that setback, Graham has gotten his grades in order and said he felt the Chipola program and coach Patrick Blake have done a good job improving his skills, too.

“It’s prepared me for the next level,” Graham said.

Graham said that the Rebels started getting involved in recruiting him when former Findlay Prep coach Todd Simon joined the staff. UNLV coaches aren’t allowed to comment on potential student-athletes, per NCAA rules.

There will be more visits in his future, Graham said, though if he decided to commit to UNLV tomorrow, he wouldn’t be the first guy in the past two years to change his plans. In fact, that’s been kind of the norm for guys who make visits to Las Vegas lately.

As for the city itself, Graham said he had been here before for summer tournaments and likes the overall feeling.

“It’s a nice city,” he said. “You just have to stay focused out here.”

Graham doesn’t have any other visits set up yet. On those future trips, as he did at UNLV, Graham will look for a tempo he likes and a good relationship with the head coach. When he feels comfortable he’s found that, he’ll commit, but Graham said he’s in no big hurry.

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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