The curious case of Karam Mashour

Moment late in Wednesday's game offered visible insight into sophomore wing's frustrating season

On a night where so many things went right for UNLV in an 82-63 thrashing of Colorado State, plenty of buzz after the game involved someone who never took off his warmups.

In one of the night’s more interesting wrinkles, Dave Rice attempted to put sophomore wing Karam Mashour into the game for some mop-up duty in the game’s final minute, but instead, Mashour declined.

It offered a bit of visual insight into what has become an increasingly frustrating season at the end of the bench for the 6-foot-6 reserve.

Mashour has been one of UNLV’s more consistent performers in terms of effort on the practice floor, but as far as his playing time, the question has remained the same: Where do the minutes come from?

That was the same issue when Mashour’s time at UNLV got off to a rough start a year ago.

After coming from Israel to live with family and try his hand at the American game, interest from several schools perked up after he played in only a handful of summer AAU tournaments with the Las Vegas Prospects. When UNLV offered a scholarship, the decision was simple, as his being new to the country and having to hurdle cultural and language barriers made staying close to his family the most logical option.

It seemed like a great fit. Mashour was a high-level athlete with a decent jumper and a knack for finishing at the rim in a variety of ways.

Former coach Lon Kruger suggested to Mashour and his family that he redshirt during his first season on campus, hinting that playing time wasn’t there for him quite yet. Despite Kruger’s urging, Mashour opted to pass up the redshirt, appearing in only 12 games all season.

Under Rice, work ethic has not been an issue at all for Mashour. After last season, teammate Mike Moser suggested that Mashour move in with him, as the UCLA transfer wanted to take him under his wing and help him along. The two have even spent time at the Thomas & Mack Center after some home games working out, with Moser trying to keep him on the right track and motivated the whole way.

“I remember being Karam at UCLA,” Moser said back in November. “Sitting there the whole game, ready to play, and you only get so many minutes. It didn’t feel like you were part of the game, so you come back out and try to get some work in.

“Karam’s a really good kid, a really good worker, too. He always brings energy when he’s in the game. (The extra workout) is really more on him than me. I’m just trying to be a teammate. That’s all that is.”

Through 24 games, he’s appeared in 12, averaging only 3.3 minutes.

So, what happens now?

That’s going to be a point of speculation the rest of the way.

If Mashour decides to stick it out at UNLV, cracking the rotation likely won’t be any easier next season. The Rebels project to be loaded on the wings with both returners and newcomers, and Rice and his staff are still firmly in the hunt for the top wing — and top overall recruit — in the 2012 recruiting class in Bishop Gorman’s Shabazz Muhammad.

If Mashour decided to explore his options, he’d be in good shape if he wanted to stay in the U.S. and try his luck at another program. Having not used his redshirt a year, it would be there to allow him two years of eligibility elsewhere after sitting out.

Of course, any decision on next season is a long way off. But Wednesday night gave the public a glimpse of just how frustrating waiting in the wings has become for Mashour.