On the heels of the Scarlet & Gray Showcase, UNLV fanshaven’t been this excited to start a basketball season in a long time. To take the pulse of Rebel Nation, I took to Twitter and asked fans to send me their biggest questions about the team. My long-winded responses could never fit in 140 characters, so I present a sampling of the questions and answers are below. (Some questions have been tweaked to clean up Tweet-speak.)
Words with Fans
Depth at the point? I know Marshall and Katin will be splitting duty, but does anyone trust Cook if one gets injured?
Freshman Daquan Cook may be the least-heralded of the Rebels’ incoming freshman class, but he’s been solid in practice – especially recently. He may even be the best “natural” point guard on the roster, as I tend to slot both Anthony Marshall and Katin Reinhardt as combo guards. Cook has good vision on offense and he’s been knocking down open shots. I just think he needs to get bigger and stronger. Would I trust him to be the full-time starter on a team with legit Final Four aspirations? Probably not. But I don’t think the team would fall apart if an injury forced him into a significant role.
Can they improve their play on the road?
All nine of the team’s losses last year came away from Thomas & Mack, and I wouldn’t expect the Rebels to transform into road warriors this season. If anything the team will be even younger, relying on freshmen to fill several key roles, and with Khem Birch becoming eligible in mid-December, the rotation figures to be in flux for the better part of the season. That kind of instability doesn’t usually lead to road success, but stranger things have happened.
Free throws and outside shooting?
This might have been the biggest weakness of last year’s team. Outside shooting should be helped by the arrival of freshman Katin Reinhardt and improvement from Marshall. Mike Moser has also looked better shooting the ball in practice so far. All I can say with any certainty at this point is that there will be plenty of open looks, considering how loaded the Rebels will be in the frontcourt. I haven’t had a chance to ask coach Dave Rice about it yet, but he’s been emphasizing free throw shooting in practice.
Can Rice keep the recruiting going as strong as he has been?
That’s a tough task. Very few programs can pull in Top 5-caliber recruiting classes year after year, so it may take Rice some time to build up that kind of currency with high school players. Next year’s class of Dantley Walker, Christian Wood and Jelan Kendrick doesn’t look as flashy as the Bennett-Reinhardt-Cook-Goodman-Morant haul, but the Rebels should still have at least one more scholarship to offer, and they’re still in the running for a couple of Top 25 players. Overall, Rice and his staff have a good reputation in recruiting circles and they probably haven’t landed their last elite player.
Biggest question is, will all this talent work?
Balancing minutes, usage, egos, etc. is not going to be an easy task for Rice. But his up-tempo philosophy should help, as that’s usually the best way to get players to share and buy in to the concept of team ball. There are also questions about how well these players will fit together on the court, as there are some overlapping skillsets, but I think that concern is secondary. Too much talent is better than not enough talent. I think this collection of players is well-suited for this system, so yes, I expect things will come together without
too much of a problem.
Have a question about UNLV basketball? Email Mike Grimala (Mike.Grimala@Runrebs.com) or follow him on Twitter (@MikeGrimala).