Thursday, Dec. 31, 2009 | 2 a.m.
There aren't many places like Las Vegas as far as cities to work in as a sports writer.
I didn't cover every major event in town over the last year, but I saw quite the variety.
So with 2010 knocking on the door, it's time to go back through a year's worth of blood, sweat and keyboard punches to rank the Top 10 moments I witnessed while on the clock in the last 12 months.
No. 10 — Randle runs wild in Ely
It's no secret that Bradley Randle, who redshirted this season under now-departed football coach Mike Sanford, factors into UNLV's offensive plans in the future.
A highly-decorated high school running back from Murrieta, Calif., the 5-foot-8 speedster went through some growing pains during training camp last summer, spending most of his time with the third-team offensive unit.
On the team's second day in Ely, on a third- and fourth-and-one drill, Randle shot through the line and avoided contact. More impressive, though, was that he shot forward and wound up running 70-plus yards to the other end of the field, running away from defenders in the process.
It was one of those moments worth storing in the memory bank, for sure.
No. 9 — Gorman's crazy spurt
I covered one high school football game this year, and it came late in this past season out at Bishop Gorman, as the eventual state champs took on an overmatched Cheyenne squad.
Still, the Gaels were tied with the Desert Shields, 7-7, with less than five minutes to play in the first half when they flexed their collective muscle. That meant four touchdowns — yes, four — in the final 4:14 of the first half.
The capper was a weaving 40-yard punt return for a touchdown by John Lloyd where he ran around practically every member of the punt cover team.
Give Mike Sanford some credit for the things he did accomplish while at UNLV, mostly including bringing in good talent across the board, upping the program's overall GPA and putting good character in place throughout his roster.
But that never translated into bowl bids, and that ultimately led to his firing toward the end of a second consecutive 5-7 season.
His exit press conference the day after the axe was dropped, however, was pretty jaw-dropping. Go ahead and read the link, because there's simply too much to re-live here in a short space.
OK, so this one probably was only cool to me, but it was worth sharing.
During a sit-down with NHL legend Jeremy Roenick at the Palms back in June, he spoke openly about anything I wanted to ask. And nothing was more entertaining than what he had to say about his place in pop culture lore thanks to the movie Swingers and the NHL 94 video game.
He also provided me with the greatest piece of trivia of all-time involving Vince Vaughn and his alias name of "Jeremy" in Wedding Crashers.
Perry Stevenson dunks on Joe Darger
No. 6 — Perry Stevenson's "maybe shouldn't have counted" dunk on Joe Darger
In their first round NIT loss at Kentucky last March, UNLV's Joe Darger unfortunately was a victim in the night's biggest highlight.
Perry Stevenson's monster dunk coming down the lane was accompanied by a blocking call against the Rebel forward.
Were his feet set? Should it have been a charge instead? It was debatable at the time, and I still consider that to be a home-court call. Oh well. That happens all the time.
Anyone who wants to question UNLV's potential for team toughness after last week's loss in Honolulu to USC just has to remember back to the beginning of the month, when the Rebels overcame countless obstacles to come away with a double-overtime win at Arizona.
No. 4 — Phillip's House of Payne
Blah, blah, blah, another Phillip Payne game-winning touchdown blah, blah, blah.
This one stood out, however, because a week after a heart-wrenching 23-21 home loss to Oregon State, Payne caught the highlight reel-worthy pass in the corner of the end zone with 32 seconds to play which appeared to put UNLV right back on track at 3-1.
Things didn't go as planned after that, but the play still was ridiculous.
No. 3 — Pacquiao v. Cotto
This was my first time taking in a prize fight in Vegas, and one thing is for sure — it's the most thrilling live event I've ever attended. More so than the Final Four, more so than a BCS bowl game.
No. 2 — Anthony Morrow goes wild
People can say that NBA Summer League basketball is meaningless. In the grand scheme of things, it certainly can look that way.
But Golden State's Anthony Morrow didn't treat it like that in his final appearance at the 2009 showcase in July, setting a new single-game Las Vegas Summer League scoring record, netting 47 points.
This came just two days after teammate Anthony Randolph tied the previous record of 42.
As Morrow approached the record, it was the most energy I'd felt in two years of watching Summer League ball. No joke. The COX Pavilion was truly rocking.
No. 1 — Bellfield blasts Louisville
I know, technically this was 2008. But it was 2009 somewhere late in the afternoon on Dec. 31, 2008, right?
That's when then-freshman Oscar Bellfield went up against Louisville's mammoth freshman forward Samardo Samuels for what proved to be the game-winning bucket in a 56-55 UNLV triumph in Freedom Hall.
It wasn't the prettiest of victories for the Rebels, but it's amazing what a last-second shot going a team's way can cover up from the previous 40 minutes.