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2015 Early Signing Period Breakdown: Mountain West

  • Best Player: Justin Jackson, UNLV
  • Best Potential: Justin Jackson, UNLV
  • Best Scorer: Koby McEwen, Utah State
  • Best Shooter: Christian Vital, UNLV
  • Best Rebounder: Jalen McDaniels, San Diego State
  • Best Passer: Devearl Ramsey, Nevada
  • Best Defender: Jaylen Fisher, UNLV
  • Best Glue Guy: Josh Hall, Nevada
  • Best Athlete: Damien Jefferson, New Mexico

1. UNLV Rebels

Jaylen Fisher | 6′-2″ | PG | Bolton (TN)
Christian Vital | 6′-2″ | SG | St. Thomas More (CT)
Carlos Johnson | 6′-4″ | SG | Findlay Prep (NV)
Justin Jackson | 6′-7″ | SF | Hill School (CAN)

Jaylen Fisher (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)
Jaylen Fisher (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

It’s no surprise to see UNLV at the head of the class when it comes to Mountain West team recruiting rankings, as head coach Dave Rice and his assistants have been largely stellar on the recruiting trail. The backcourt and wing corps in Las Vegas will receive a serious boost from the quartet of newcomers who inked with the Rebels.

Two-way point guard Jaylen Fisher and Canadian scoring wing Justin Jackson arguably are the most likely candidates to see the hardwood early. Fisher is an all-around talent who is a true distributor and defender. Meanwhile long and lanky Jackson presents a mismatch on the wing and also has a versatile scoring game. Jackson’s experience playing for Canada’s U19 team could prove to be invaluable if he sees early time.

Combo guard Christian Vital and strong wing Carlos Johnson both played in strong programs as seniors in high school and can help UNLV in the long-term. Vital drew mention from Rice for his “deep” shooting range and skill level, while Johnson is known for his defensive traits and ability to get out in transition and finish.

2. Utah State Aggies

Koby McEwen | 6′-3″ | PG | Wasatch Academy (UT)
Daron Henson | 6′-7″ | SF | Cathedral (CA)
Klay Stall | 6′-9″ | C | Basha (AZ)

The Aggies have a banner recruiting class in the mix, punctuated by guard Koby McEwen, who was considered a top 100 player nationally by ESPN. McEwen is a native of Canada who is a tremendous scorer and can also run the show as the point guard. Utah State beat out a host of high-major suitors to pop McEwen, who plays at an in-state program. McEwen could be an all-conference player sooner rather than later, if he develops as planned at Utah State. A consistent double-double performer in the paint in high school, Klay Stall continues to develop and has the frame to really impact the interior down the line in Logan. Another promising addition is Los Angeles-area standout Daron Henson. With mismatch size to play small forward in the Mountain West, Henson drew praise from head coach Tim Duryea as a “tremendous shooter” with could certainly give Utah State another dimension offensively, given his size. Henson is likely to see early team for Utah State, like McEwen.

3. New Mexico Lobos

Damien Jefferson | 6′-5″ | SF | East Chicago Central (IN)
Aher Uguak | 6′-7″ | SF | Harry Ainlay (CAN)
Connor MacDougall | 6′-9″ | PF | South Mountain CC (AZ)

New Mexico got deeper and more athletic in the frontcourt with their trio of signees.

Junior college transfer Connor MacDougall initially headed to Arizona State out of high school as a borderline top 100 player. He has improved physically and should give the Lobos a legitimate option at power forward and center during his two seasons on campus. Head coach Craig Neal mentioned MacDougall favorably regarding MacDougall’s ability to score in the paint. Damien Jefferson should also fill a niche as a strong defender, rebounder and shooter. He’s a legacy recruit to New Mexico and a top 150 player nationally according to Rivals. Explosive athlete Aher Uguak is a name to remember for the future. Uguak is reportedly the top prospect in Albert, Canada, and clearly has impressive potential, though perhaps not polish at the present time.

4. Nevada Wolfpack

Devearl Ramsey | 5′-10″ | PG | Sierra Canyon (CA)
Josh Hall | 6′-7″ | SF | Genesis Academy (VA)
Sam Williams | 6′-8″ | PF | Mt. San Jacinto JC (CA)
Kenneth Wooten | 6′-9″ | C | Manteca (CA)

Eric Musselman has an uphill climb in rebuilding the Nevada program relative to the upper echelon of the Mountain West given the current roster, but landing a point guard who USA Basketball national team experience (Devearl Ramsey) and several other promising players should help jump start the effort.

Ramsey could have easily landed at a power conference program, but eschewed that opportunity to have an early chance to take the reins to the Wolfpack offense. He may lack ideal size but is extremely savvy and an excellent overall basketball player. There’s also reason to be very excited in Reno about Detroit-native Josh Hall, a one-time Rice pledge. He’s a long and athletic wing who collected several high-major offers before picking Nevada.

A rare local player to pick Nevada, Sam Williams may be a bit rusty after some time off following a great sophomore junior college season. The former Hug (NV) standout averaged 25.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game in the junior college ranks. Perhaps more towards the future, Kenneth Wooten has the ability to be a quality power forward for Nevada. He’s very athletic and a talented pivot, who is likely just scratching the surface on his upside. He may need time to add strength though.

5. San Diego State Aztecs

Jalen McDaniels | 6′-9″ | PF | Federal Way (WA)

San Diego State has developed a virtual army of long, lanky big men with athleticism. It’s fairly clear Jalen McDaniels will continue that lineage, and  provide versatile size. McDaniels carries a reputation of being able to score in the paint and also collect caroms. McDaniels has drawn some attention as a top 100 player nationally, and there’s certainly reason to believe he can find significant success in the Aztecs’ system, like several players carrying his traits did before him.

6. San Jose State Spartans

Nai Carlisle | 6′-2″ | PG | West Lafayette (IN)
Keith Fisher | 6′-8″ | PF | Westchester (CA)

San Jose State continues to add pieces in their rebuilding effort, and bolstered their backcourt and frontcourt with a player each. From the Hoosier State, point guard Nai Carlisle was named a top 15 player in Indiana during his junior year. Head coach Dave Wojcik called Carlisle a tremendous defender who has good strength. He’ll be paired with in-state standout Keith Fisher, a sizable double-double performer in points and rebounds. Fisher is blessed with good athleticism and Wojcik specifically noted his motor as being top notch as well.

7. Fresno State Bulldogs

Johnny McWilliams | 6′-5″ | SG | San Marcos (CA)
Bryson Williams | 6′-6″ | PF | Roosevelt (CA)

The Bulldogs stayed in-state to pick up a duo of new recruits. San Diego-area standout Johnny McWilliams has the size and game to be a jumbo wing who can really score. McWilliams was also considering Colorado State and Nevada, making his addition for Fresno State important in that they beat out conference rivals. Although perhaps slightly undersized, Bryson Williams was quite productive at the high school level and is a committed rebounder in the frontcourt.

8. Boise State Broncos

Alex Hobbs | 6′-4″ | SG | LaPorte (TX)
Justinian Jessup | 6′-5″ | SG | Longmont (CO)

Boise State really bolstered their backcourt versatility and scoring by adding perimeter players Alex Hobbs and Justinian Jessup. Hobbs should roll into Boise with a full head of state as a touted scorer from Texas. Head coach Leon Rice called Hobbs an “elite scorer” and noted Hobbs can fill the scoring void on the Broncos’ roster sooner rather than later. Jessup should give Rice roster flexibility in that he could potentially play three positions as his frame fills out and strength increases. Overall, he’s a savvy prospect who isn’t afraid to bomb from outside when necessary.

9. Colorado State Rams

Devocio Butler | 6′-5″ | SF | Hill College (TX)

With a healthy amount of upperclassmen on the 2015-2016 roster, the Rams struck first in adding a junior college player to replenish the vacancies. Georgia-native Devocio Butler has the size and physical maturity to help right off the bat when he arrives in Fort Collins. He’s a capable shooter, has a good skill-level, and size for his position.

10. Wyoming Cowboys

Austin Mueller | 6′-6″ | SF | ThunderRidge (CO)

The Cowboys have only one senior on their 2015-2016 team, and as a result inked forward Austin Mueller from their neighbors to the south, Colorado, during the early signing period. Head coach Larry Shyatt called Mueller a multi-position player when remarking on his signing. Mueller led his team a state runner-up finish as a junior and has solid size for the small forward slot in the Mountain West.

NR. Air Force Falcons

Air Force, like other service academies, does not officially release lists of signed sports recruits. Several verbal commitments have been announced, but they have not been confirmed by the school.

About K.J. Hassenstab

K.J. Hassenstab is the publisher of the College Basketball Newcomers Guide book and Hoopniks.com. He founded Hoopniks.com in 2009, and has contributed to SlamOnline, Dime Magazine's HighSchoolHoop.com, and NBCSports.com, along with other publications in the past. Hassenstab has covered grassroots, high school and basketball recruiting for over a decade. Follow on Twitter, @Hoopniks.

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