There was a time when UNLV could have been called Point Guard U. From the mid-1970s to the early 1990s, the men’s basketball team was consistently blessed with great floor generals, from Robert Smith to Greg Anthony. The team’s style attracted expert distributors who loved pace, ran the fast break expertly and were at ease in half-court sets.
In the post-Tarkanian years, Rebel fans learned how spoiled they had been. In the past two decades, only two Rebel point guards have met the fans’ nostalgic litmus test: Marcus Banks, the local kid, for his speed and Vegas flash, and Kevin Kruger, the coach’s kid, who often seemed like the selfless Danny Tarkanian (as a point guard, he was a great politician) with a shooting touch.
With the hiring of former Tarkanian player and protegé Dave Rice in 2011—and the subsequent “Let’s Run” advertising blitz—Rebel fans dreamed of a return to the point-guard-fueled fluidity of the team’s high-scoring glory years. Last season, though, fans understood that Oscar Bellfield was, while highly competent, a point guard for the Kruger years. And again this season, point-guard optimism was, well, guarded. Anthony Marshall—a born shooting guard—was slated to play the point regularly for the first time. And each time the Rebels have stumbled, the conversation has come back to the idea that Marshall is playing out of position. If only we had a “true” point guard is the cry of the day. The thing is, Marshall leads the Mountain West Conference with six assists per game and is third in assist-to-turnover ratio. Not bad for a guy who’s not supposed to be where he is.
So while we wait for the arrival of the Next Great Floor General, we can also acknowledge that Marshall is one of the keys to the relative success of this year’s young Rebels. And if UNLV ultimately fulfills fans’ wildly high expectations, Marshall will be the one who leads the way.