DaQuan Cook, arguably the area’s top boys’ basketball guard in the Class of 2012, gave a verbal commitment to the University of Nevada-Las Vegas Thursday afternoon.

“I want to get a different experience. I’ve never been out west,” said Cook, 6-foot-1. “To go there for college will be an exciting opportunity.”

Cook said he was also considering South Florida, Seton Hall, Temple and Washington. Cook said new Rebels coach Dave Rice impressed him.

Cook drew UNLV’s attention earlier this summer through a connection with newly-hired UNLV assistant Heath Schroyer, a graduate of national prep powerhouse DeMatha Catholic who has deep recruiting ties in the Baltimore-D.C. region.

Rice, who became Rebels coach in April after being an assistant at Brigham Young, was most recently on-hand to see him play in an AAU tournament in Milwaukee last weekend.

“I didn’t really want to speed [my recruitment] up, but coach Rice really showed me that he wanted me,” said Cook, who plays with Baltimore’s Finest AAU squad. “UNLV has a great tradition with great fans. I love their style of play.”

Cook’s verbal commitment is the second big decision he’s made in the last couple of months. After helping Digital Harbor to the Class 2A state championship last March, Cook is transferring to St. Frances Academy for his senior season.

“St. Frances is playing a national schedule and I want to play on that level,” said Cook, who made the decision after returning from Italy with an under-19 U.S Elite Select team with Patterson rising junior standout Aquille Carr. “Coach [Mark] Karcher is going to push me and get me ready for college.”

It will be Cook’s second stop at the MIAA/Baltimore Catholic League power. After transferring from City College where he was a freshman reserve on the Knights’ Class 2A state title team in 2009, Cook started the 2009-10 campaign at St. Frances before transferring to Digital Harbor in February, but didn’t play.

After a rocky start last season, Cook and Digital Harbor put it together for the postseason. The Rams disposed of Prince George’s County power Gwynn Park and Easton from the eastern shore at Comcast Center for their second title in three seasons. Cook compiled 30 points, 10 rebounds and eight rebounds in two games at the University of Maryland.

Cook averaged 14 points and seven rebounds last season. Cook, who’s playing with St. Frances at the Craig Cromwell League, will move right into the starting point guard role vacated with the graduation of four-year starter R.J. Williams (Loyola University).