Amauri Hardy transferring from UNLV

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Steve Marcus

UNLV’s Amauri Hardy (3) lays up the ball during a game against UNR at the Thomas & Mack Center Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020.

Thu, Mar 19, 2020 (1:31 p.m.)

UNLV is losing its most experienced scorer, as guard Amauri Hardy has put his name in the NCAA transfer portal with the intention of leaving the program.

Hardy is ahead of schedule on his coursework and should be able to grad transfer, making him eligible to play next season for his new team.

A Michigan native, Hardy was part of a much-hyped 2017 recruiting class heading into Marvin Menzies’ second year at UNLV. Hardy steadily improved over his three seasons with the Rebels, and though he wasn’t an obvious stylistic fit in T.J. Otzelberger’s system, Hardy stuck with it and played his best basketball toward the end of the 2019-20 season.

For the year, Hardy averaged a career-high 14.5 points and 3.3 assists per game. He made 33.3 percent of his 3-pointers and scored 20-plus points in six games.

The decision to transfer is not a complete surprise. Hardy is more comfortable as an on-ball guard, while Otzelberger’s system is built on motion, handoffs and working the ball around the perimeter quickly.

Hardy also would have been asked to move down in UNLV’s pecking order next year. Rising junior Bryce Hamilton established himself as the Rebels’ No. 1 scorer this season, and the team will add junior guard David Jenkins, who scored 19.7 points at South Dakota State in 2018-19; Jenkins sat out this season as a redshirt transfer.

Had Hardy stuck around for one more year at UNLV, he could have become the first four-year Rebel to play his entire career at the school since Carlos Lopez-Sosa graduated in 2014.

What the move means for the program:

Mutual decision

More than most transfers, both sides seem to have reached a mutual understanding here. Hardy is heading into his senior year and probably doesn’t envision himself taking on a lesser role — which he would have been asked to do at UNLV — because the Rebels figure to be built around Hamilton and Jenkins next year. And the coaching staff probably wants to avoid any strife when it comes to playing time and shot distribution.

There’s also the question of fit. Hardy’s game was built for a Menzies-style offense, where guards and big men play a two-man game in the pick-and-roll. Hardy is good at that. But Otzelberger’s system doesn’t work as well when one player is dribbling the ball against a set defense, so it behooves Hardy to find a coach who will encourage his talents.

There should be plenty of schools interested in adding a player like Hardy. Expect him to have a robust market.

Roster math

Hardy is the third UNLV player to enter the transfer portal, but the Rebels still need to free up some scholarships in order to accommodate the eight (for now) incoming recruits.

A look at the roster:

Incoming recruits

Nick Blake

Reece Brown

Edoardo Del Cadia

Nick Fleming

Isaac Lindsey

Jhaylon Martinez

Devin Tillis

Donavan Yap

Seniors graduating

Nick Blair

Elijah Mitrou-Long

Vitaliy Shibel

Transfers

Jonah Antonio

Jay Green

Amauri Hardy

Returning players

Marvin Coleman

Cheickna Dembele

Mbacke Diong

Bryce Hamilton

David Jenkins

Donnie Tillman

Moses Wood

Two more players from the returning list have to go, or the Rebels will have to get creative by asking some of their high-school recruits to for a prep year. Tillman remains highly probable to transfer.

Hardy’s legacy

Hardy didn’t reach the NCAA Tournament during his time at UNLV, as was his oft-stated goal, but he still accomplished a lot. He was a third-team All-Mountain West selection this season, and the Sun included him as the sixth man on its UNLV All-Decade team for the 2010’s. He played hard for Otzelberger and genuinely seemed to enjoy his stay in Las Vegas.

He also gave fans this dunk in a fun home win over New Mexico.

With immediate eligibility on his side, Hardy should be have his choice of good situations for 2020-21. Runnin’ Rebels fans should be happy for him if he chooses wisely and finally gets his opportunity to play in the 2021 tournament.

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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