Rebels unveil talented squad in first practice

Season-opening session provides glimpse of things to come

After all of one official practice, this much can be said about the 2012-13 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels: The pieces are there.

Now, there’s no way to predict how everything will come together as the season advances. A million different variables could keep the Rebels from reaching their potential, but one practice was enough to see that the pieces are in place for a memorable season.

The Rebs worked out for two hours at the Mendenhall Center on Friday night, and the session was just about what you’d expect for the first practice of the season, with a lot of enthusiasm and intensity combined with some natural early-season sloppiness. But the hype machine will continue to fire on all cylinders, because the squad’s talent level was on full display.

Freshman forward Anthony Bennett looked beastly, junior forward Mike Moser broke out his polished mid-range game, senior guard Anthony Marshall showcased his explosiveness on both ends of the floor, and the list goes on.

Second-year coach Dave Rice simultaneously praised his players’ effort on Day One while attempting to pump the brakes on any Final Four talk.

“We have high expectations as well,” Rice said. “But right now we’re just trying to get better every day.”

The practice was mostly broken down into positional drills, with guards working on things like catch-and-shoot routines while the big men worked separately in the post. The team also practiced some of Rice’s defensive concepts, with Anthony Marshall looking particularly quick on D. The end of the session saw some full-court 5-on-5 scrimmaging.

With about 100 fans in attendance and a very controlled practice structure, it wasn’t exactly Midnight Madness in Lexington, Kentucky (the Rebels are holding their Scarlet/Grey Showcase on Oct. 18). But the season has officially started, and for UNLV diehards, that’s exciting enough.

Bennett packs ’em in

It was easy to tell that Anthony Bennett is UNLV’s most highly-touted freshman in 20 years, as he drew the biggest media contingent after practice. The 6-foot-8 forward said he liked the way the Rebels came out of the gate.

“It was real good,” said Bennett. “We kept the intensity up and people got after it on offense and defense. I felt we got better as a team today.”

Bennett also declared himself as the favorite to win the slam dunk competiion at next week’s Scarlet/Grey Showcase. He threw down several ferocious dunks during practice, and afterward joked that Bryce Dejean-Jones‘ injury has cleared all obstacles to claiming the dunk title.

“I got this,” he laughed.

Reinhardt at the point

Katin Reinhardt may be thought of as a sharpshooter first and foremost, but he was recruited as a combo guard, and he got a chance to show his point guard skills late in practice. The 6-foot-5 freshman ran the show opposite senior Anthony Marshall during a 5-on-5 drill.

Reinhardt looked natural during his time at the point, and afterward said he enjoys playing the position.

“I like being able to have the ball and creating plays for other people,” Reinhardt said. “A lot of people think I’m just a scorer, but I like creating for others. I can see myself backing up Anthony Marshall and playing that point guard role.”

Rice agreed with that assessment.

“We recruited him to be a point guard and a shooting guard,” said Rice. “Obviously Anthony Marshall is our returning point guard this season, but at the same time Katin has a point guard mentality.

“There’s no doubt that Katin will play a lot of point guard minutes during his years at UNLV.”

Follow Mike Grimala on Twitter for 24/7 Rebels updates (@MikeGrimala).