The pace was fast and the intensity level was high during UNLV’s practice on Saturday, as second-year coach Dave Rice continued to emphasize the importance of playing with tempo.
Many of the drills were of the end-to-end variety, and the players were forced to push through the early-season fatigue.
“It was important for us to be able to get through it from a physical standpoint,” said Rice. “Our main goal right now is learning how to play at a higher rate of speed than our guys are comfortable playing at. And so there are going to be turnovers and missed shots, but we’ve got to fight through it and I think we did a good job of getting through practice and getting a lot of things done.”
Saturday’s practice featured more 5-on-5 scrimmaging than Friday, along with open-court drills that worked toward instilling a run-and-gun mindset. Sophomore center Khem Birch looked explosive around the rim, finishing with several two-handed dunks, and freshman point guard Daquan Cook authored some nice transition possessions.
Junior forward Mike Moser did his part to keep the
energy high. Moser was extremely vocal during the session, loudly
prodding his teammates to finish one defensive drill. He also came up
with the play of the day, emphatically swatting away a dunk attempt by
freshman Demetris Morant.
The Rebels are off Sunday. The team’s next practice will be on Monday, though that session is closed to the media. The next open practice is on Tuesday.
Teaching moment for Goodman
Savon Goodman is one of the team’s most intriguing players, as the freshman possesses the raw athleticism and hard-nosed mindset to be a defensive force. But after coming up short in a defensive drill on Saturday, Rice pulled him aside for a teaching moment.
“I love Savon’s effort,” said Rice. “He plays extremely hard and he’s extremely coachable. I just told him that we’ll never ask our guys to do anything they’re not capable of. I think he’s a terrific defensive player, and I just needed him to play better defense on those possessions.”
Goodman said he took the pep talk as constructive criticism.
“When he screams at me for not getting out to a shooter on defense or letting my man beat me baseline, I just take it personal and try to get better at that,” said the 6-foot-6 forward. “It’s about closing out on my man, moving my feet to the baseline, stuff like that because I’m going to have to guard the 1 through the 4. Anything he’s telling me, I know it’s not to hurt me, it’s just to make me better and make the team better.”
Dejean-Jones at practice
Injured sophomore guard Bryce Dejean-Jones was spotted at Saturday’s practice with a hard cast on his left (non-shooting) hand. Dejean-Jones was on the court before practice, then grabbed a seat behind the scorer’s table to watch the two-hour session. Afterward, he spent about 15 minutes putting up one-handed shots.
Dejean-Jones broke two bones in his hand whlie falling to the floor after dunking during a team workout on Oct. 4. The injury is expected to sideling him another 3-5 weeks.