In the past two days, UNLV landed commitments from two more players to join its roster for the upcoming season. First, Kent State transfer Michael Nuga announced he will be joining the Runnin’ Rebels, the next day, junior college guard Josh Baker made his commitment to the program.
Nuga is a 6-foot-2 guard who will be immediately eligible to play this upcoming season as a grad transfer. Last season with the Golden Flashes, Nuga averaged 17.8 points per game in 13 games. He shot 50% from the field and made 38.5% of his 3-pointers, on average he made just under three 3-pointers per game while averaging seven shots from behind the arch.
“Mike is a great addition to the Runnin’ Rebel program,” Kruger said in a statement. “His passion and determination to be a great player on the court, as well as a great person off of it, fit perfectly with the values and vision of UNLV men’s basketball.”
What is just as impressive as his 3-point shooting, is his ability to drive to the basket and finish at the rim. One of the biggest struggles for UNLV last season was its inability to make shots at the rim. They were able to get to the rim, but could not finish. Nuga gives UNLV someone who will be a threat to get to the basket at will and be able to make those shots.
Baker is a 6-foot-2 guard from Hutchinson Community College, the same college that former UNLV forward Shakur Juiston transferred to UNLV from. Baker was one of the top junior college guards who was considering Rutgers, Houston and Loyola-Chicago in his final three, based on a social media post from earlier in the month. He also had offers from Seton Hall, TCU and New Mexico.
Last season, Baker averaged 16.6 points per game in 16 games, after averaging 13.7 points in his freshman season. He shot 41.8 percent from 3-point range while averaging six shots from long range per game in 26 minutes averaged per game. Similar to Nuga, Baker will be expected to contribute as a scorer and be a threat from 3-point range for the Rebels to give them some shooting.
Baker spoke with 247Sports about his decision to come to UNLV. He told 247Sports that he liked the plan for the future he saw with UNLV, that they believe in player development and that all the coaches are players coaches. Here are some more comments Baker told Dushawn Loudon of 247Sports in the article.
“They want me to come in and be a scorer. Come in and impact the game and be a two way player on both sides of the ball, use my length, be a playmaker, make plays for the team , make shots just doing what I know I can do,” Baker told 247Sports.
“It’s going to be a good year for sure,” he continued. “I know for the past few years UNLV hasn’t been as good but we’re going to put this school back on the map and make some noise, and we’re going for a tournament run.”
Early in the process, Kruger brought in players from power conferences who did not get a lot of playing time at their schools and not a lot of in-game production to show their potential. Now, his last few recruits are players who are going to be making a jump to the Mountain West after being productive in smaller conferences and schools.
There are still a lot of questions surrounding what the starting lineup and rotation would look like. Not everyone will be able to play a significant amount of minutes, and it is likely that Kruger, in recruiting players, told them that there is playing time up for grabs. Time will tell what the rotation would look like as the team practices and the coaching staff implements its systems.
As it stands right now, there is only one more open spot on UNLV’s roster. Earlier this week, top-50 class of 2021 recruit Arthur Kaluma asked the school to be released from his letter of intent. Through the transfer portal, the Rebels added 6-foot-6 guard Donovan Williams, 6-foot-7 forward Victor Iwuakor and 6-foot-9 forward Royce Hamm. Add in Nick Blake, one of the few returners from last year’s roster, Kruger and his staff will count these four or a combination of these players could be as productive as Kaluma was expected to be.