For Rebel fans, this will be a season of discovery: As many as nine players could make their UNLV debuts this campaign. The Smiths—Deville, Kendall and Roscoe—are set to make an impact (see main story). But other newcomers will also fill crucial roles for the Rebels this season and beyond.
Jelan Kendrick guard/forward, 6-foot-6, junior
Kendrick is on his third Division I college (he previously played at Ole Miss and Memphis), but he says he’s matured off the court and is ready to settle into a leadership role for the Rebels. On the court, he’s a lanky swingman who should bring an added dimension to the Rebels’ offense. He’s got point guard skills but figures to start at small forward, giving the team an extra ball-handler and slasher on the perimeter. Kendrick has been one of the most impressive finishers in transition during preseason practices.
Kevin Olekaibe guard, 6-foot-2, senior
Like Kendrick and Deville Smith, Olekaibe transferred to UNLV this season, but under very different circumstances. A Las Vegas native, Olekaibe left Fresno State over the summer to enroll at UNLV so he could be closer to his father, who requires extensive medical care. Olekaibe joined the Rebels as a walk-on and hopes the NCAA will grant him a medical hardship waiver to play this season (otherwise he’d have to sit out a year under normal transfer rules). If he’s eligible, he could be the first guard off the bench and a key outside shooter.
Chris Wood forward, 6-foot-10, freshman
The last time the Rebels plucked a highly touted power forward from Findlay Prep, it seemed to work out pretty well for all parties. No one is comparing Wood to Anthony Bennett, but he does have an intriguing skill set that could earn him minutes as early as this season. Wood isn’t strong enough right now to bang down low for extended minutes, but he’s athletic and can step back and hit jump shots from the 3-point line with ease. Look for Wood to get his feet wet this season, then take on a more significant role next year.
Demetris Morant forward, 6-foot-8, freshman
Morant arrived on campus last year with the athleticism of an NBA player, but the metabolism of a hummingbird. After using a redshirt year to pack some weight onto his previously spindly frame, however, Morant may be ready to give the Rebels some minutes as a defensive-minded backup big man. His offensive game consists almost entirely of dunks at this point, but if he continues to develop, he could become a key contributor in future years.
Dantley Walker guard, 5-foot-11, freshman
Walker is by far the best shooter the Rebels have, but fans probably won’t get a chance to see the home-state hero light it up this season. That’s because after setting the all-time Nevada high school record for points, assists and 3-pointers while at Lincoln County High School, Walker has spent the past two years away from the game, serving an LDS mission. So while his deep jumper has looked great in preseason practice, the rest of his game still carries a bit of rust. Look for Walker to redshirt in 2013-14 and compete for minutes at point guard next year.