UNLV has had a lot of players who could put the ball in the basket. But more often than not, someone had to get them the ball in the right spot, at the right time to put the points on the scoreboard. Here we salute the Rebels who took as much pride in making the perfect pass as they did in scoring:
When opposing teams played the Rebels from 1985-87, everyone knew Wade wasn’t going to shoot. After all, he had scorers such as Freddie Banks, Armon Gilliam, Gerald Paddio and Anthony Jones to fill that role, plus he just wasn’t a good shooter. But even with defenses backing off of him, Wade was an offensive weapon. He piled up an NCAA-record 406 assists (in 39 games) in 1986-87, nearly 100 more than any other Rebel has produced in a single season, and his 21 assists against Navy on Dec. 29, 1986, is one short of the NCAA single-game record.
OK, when nearly everyone on the team can score from half court, who needs passing? But pass those mid-’70s teams did, even as they put the “Runnin’” in Rebels. And it was Smith leading the tireless cavalry down court, always able to spot the open man in an offense that never, ever paused to let a point guard think twice. Playing without a shot clock or 3-point line, Smith guided the Rebels to scoring averages of 110.5 points per game in 1975-76 and 107 ppg in 1976-77. Those numbers still astound.
Anthony was not only the heart and soul of the great UNLV teams of 1989-90 and 1990-91, but he was the guy who orchestrated the show, getting the ball in perfect position to scoring threats Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Anderson Hunt. Anthony had the ability to put up more points than he did with the Rebels, but he knew his main job was to distribute the ball. Anthony’s 838 assists ranks first on the Rebels’ career list even though he played just three years at UNLV.
Many UNLV fans complained for four years (1996-2000) about what Dickel couldn’t do on the court. But the vastly underappreciated New Zealand native handled the basketball with a dexterity that few Rebels have possessed, ranking third on UNLV’s career list with 776 assists. Dickel is the only player to lead the Rebels in assists four times (tying Kevin James for the lead his freshman year), and he helped UNLV twice reach the NCAA Tournament. Dickel’s average of 9.0 assists per game led the nation in 1999-2000, when he was named honorable mention All-America by The Associated Press.
When people think of Theus’ playing career, they first remember him as a scorer. And he definitely was that, averaging 19 points for the Rebels his junior year before leaving for the NBA, where he scored 19,015 points (50th in league history) in 13 seasons. But Theus’ passing also was instrumental in the Rebels’ Hardway Eight teams of the mid-’70s regularly eclipsing 100 points. As a junior, he led the team in both scoring and assists, and his 401 career assists put him 10th on UNLV’s all-time. But what stands out most in the memories of longtime fans is the pizazz with which Reggie did it all; he was as much a magician on the court as anyone who’s ever worn the Rebel uniform.
The ambidextrous point guard was much more than just the son of coach Jerry Tarkanian while at UNLV. He was a true quarterback on the court who helped guide the Rebels to a 77-19 record in his three seasons (1981-84) running the offense. While not much of a scorer, Tarkanian finished among the nation’s leaders in assists each season at UNLV, never averaging less than 8.5 per game. He is second on the Rebels’ all-time assist list with 837, just one behind Greg Anthony.
Jerry Tarkanian was the one who brought Thomas to UNLV, but perhaps because the point guard played his final two seasons under coach Rollie Massimino, he is overlooked for his contributions to the Rebels. Thomas was a traditional pass-first floor general who was named All-America honorable mention by The Associated Press after his junior year, when he finished second in the nation with an average of 8.6 assists per game. Thomas led the Rebels in assists in each of his three seasons (1991-94), and ranks fifth in school history with 549 assists.