With practice officially set to open on Friday,
here’s a quick look at some key storylines to watch during the Rebels’ first
1. Old faces in new places
UNLV’s two most important returning players, junior Mike Moser and senior
Anthony Marshall, will be playing slightly different roles this season. The
6-foot-8 Moser excelled as a power forward last year, using his athleticism to
gain an edge on opposing interior players. He was a double-double machine for
the Rebels (14.0 points, 10.5 rebounds per game), but it remains to be seen how
that production will be affected by his expected move to a more perimeter-based
role now that freshman stud Anthony Bennett figures to see major minutes at power forward (see No. 3).
Marshall was a solid No. 2 option while
playing largely off the ball (12.2 points, 4.5 assists per game), but he’ll see
increased minutes at point guard this season. It’s a position Marshall has
played in the past, but in a part-time role. Can he excel as the main
distributor for a team of thoroughbreds that wants to fast break at every
The Rebels will have a month of practices for the
duo to adjust to their new roles. Both Moser and Marshall are leaders on the
team, so it’s vital for them to play well and set the tone for the newcomers
this season. Friday’s first practice may give a glimpse into how well each
player is handling the transition.
2. Run Rebels, Run
Dave Rice had the Rebels running last year, and he wants to go even
faster this season. The second-year coach heavily emphasized tempo and conditioning during
offseason workouts, so Friday’s practice will be our first chance to see how
much it’s paid off. Can the Rebels step on the accelerator from Day One?
3. Canadian pipeline
Canada natives Khem Birch and Anthony Bennett will be two of the team’s most impactful
additions this season, combining with Moser to give the Rebels one of the most
athletic frontcourts in the nation. Power forward Bennett looks like he’ll be
an instant star, but Birch, a center, won’t be eligible to play until mid-December.
Birch can still work out with the team until then, however, so the practice court will be
the only place to see the two Canucks play together – for now.
4. Reinhardt’s hot hand
One of the Rebels’ weak spots last year was outside shooting (37.0 percent on
3-pointers as a team, 58th in the nation), and they lost their best distance shooter in Chace
Stanback (45.5 percent). Rice certainly worked to improve the situation by
recruiting one of the country’s best high school marksmen, southern California
sniper Katin Reinhardt, a 6-foot-5 guard who hit better than 45 percent of his
3s as a senior at Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.). He may already be the Rebels’
best shooter, but it will take more than a smooth stroke to earn minutes under
Rice. If Reinhardt is to carve out a major role this season, the freshman will
have to do work at both ends of the court in practice.
5. BDJ injury status
USC transfer Bryce Dejean-Jones has been expected to be an impact scorer for the
Rebels this season, but a broken hand suffered in team workouts last week has clouded that projection for the moment. Dejean-Jones is expected to be back shortly after the regular season begins, but the sophomore’s absence during practice will give others an opportunity to shine. Last year’s sixth man, senior guard Justin
Hawkins, is a safe bet to get more run if Dejean-Jones’ injury lingers. Hawkins
plays excellent defense and provides stability on the perimeter, but also keep an
eye on a pair of freshmen: Reinhardt could replicate some of Dejean-Jones’s scoring ability, and forward Savon Goodman has gotten an early
endorsement from Rice.