The 2016-17 season is going to be one of transition for the Runnin’ Rebels, as almost everything about the team has changed since we last saw them in March. In addition to a new coaching staff, 10 of the 13 scholarship players are new to the program this year, including five true freshmen.
Head coach Marvin Menzies hasn’t tipped his hand in regard to the starting lineup, but with opening night just around the corner, here’s our best guess as to how the new players will blend with holdovers in the Rebels’ rotation.
Jalen Poyser, sophomore
Poyser averaged 5.4 points per game last year as a freshman, but his production is expected to take a leap forward this season when he assumes a new role as the Rebels’ No. 1 scorer. Marvin Menzies also wants to give him minutes at shooting guard, which would free him up to attack the basket more.
Uche Ofoegbu, senior
The grad transfer was brought in to be a steadying influence in the backcourt, as he can shoot (43.5 percent from 3-point range last year at San Francisco) and defend on the perimeter. Ofoegbu isn’t flashy, but his experience will be welcomed on this exceedingly young team.
Kris Clyburn, sophomore
Clyburn is a springy defender who should fit in well if the Rebels succeed in pushing the tempo. He’s a strong finisher, and he shot the ball well at the junior college level last year, but it remains to be seen if the lanky lefty’s scoring touch will translate to Division I.
Dwayne Morgan, junior
The coaching change may benefit Morgan, a former top prospect who has been plagued by turnovers and foul trouble in his first two years at UNLV. The good news is that he’s improving as a rebounder, and he was an effective defender last year.
Cheickna Dembele, freshman
Dembele hasn’t practiced yet this preseason due to a heel injury, but the 6-foot-11 Mali native is a long, athletic shot blocker who should shore up the Rebels’ interior defense. He may not play a traditional starter’s minutes, but his long-term development is a priority for the coaching staff.
Troy Baxter, freshman
A late signee, Baxter is a ferocious dunker and capable shooter who will bring offensive firepower to the frontcourt. Along with Poyser and Dembele, he’s a future program cornerstone.
Christian Jones, senior
Another fifth-year grad transfer, Jones can defend multiple frontcourt positions.
Zion Morgan, freshman
The athletic Morgan will need to provide support as a reserve point guard.
Jovan Mooring, junior
Mooring adds a scoring element to the backcourt rotation.
Tyrell Green, senior
Green has a sweet outside shot, but limited athleticism means a limited role.
Djordjije Slijivancanin, freshman
The 6-foot-10 Serbian could be in the mix for backup minutes at power forward and center.
Ben Coupet, freshman
Defense-first swingman will be a favorite of the coaching staff.
Jordan Johnson, junior
The diminutive transfer from Wisconsin-Milwaukee will sit out the 2016-17 season, then take over as the starting point guard next year.