Notebook: Willis grades UNLV’s non-conference a ‘C-plus’

Rebels have shown progress, but enter league play on a sour note


In the finals of the Diamond Head Classic, UNLV fell to USC, 67-56. The Rebels closed the non-conference season with a 12-2 record.


Southern California forward Leonard Washington fends off UNLV guard Kendall Wallace (2) for a rebound in Friday's finals of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu. Launch slideshow »

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The Rebel Room

USC POSTGAME: An ugly ending in paradise

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Ryan Greene and Alex Adeyanju discuss UNLV's unflattering finish at the Diamond Head Classic, falling to USC, 67-56. Plus, the guys grade out UNLV's non-conference season and take a look at what's to come in Mountain West play.

HONOLULU — All things considered, Tre'Von Willis considers UNLV's 12-2 finish in the non-conference portion of the 2009-10 schedule a tad above average.

"I give us a C-plus," the UNLV junior guard said following the team's 67-56 loss to USC in the Diamond Head Classic title game on Friday. "I think we can do way better than we've been doing.

"There's a lot of positives and some negatives."

The most glaring negative for UNLV is its performance against bigger, stronger lineups, highlighted by losses to Southern Cal and Kansas State.

However, the positives are there, even though they didn't completely show through on Friday, in particular.

Willis has emerged as the team's clear-cut leader on the floor, which is something that lacked in a disappointing slide to finish last season.

Transfers Chace Stanback and Derrick Jasper have rounded into form somewhat, and freshman guards Anthony Marshall and Justin Hawkins have clearly learned from early growing pains.

Plus, junior forward Matt Shaw has only helped UNLV's defense improve after recently earning a solid spot in Lon Kruger's starting lineup. His vocal presence on that end of the floor has made quite the difference.

"A very good non-conference," Kruger said. "A disappointing way to finish it, but whatever we are, 12-2, you go back to Oct. 15, and it's not just the record, but we've made a lot of progress.

"We started to shoot the ball better, started to do some things better, and this game aside, I think we've established a foundation from which we can build — and need to. This level is not where we can afford to keep playing. We have to get better going into conference play."

Willis takes home, um, hardware

Willis may have had his roughest offensive performance of the season on Friday, but did enough earlier in the week to earn a spot on the all-tournament team.

After the loss, he was adorned with a black beaded necklace and given a wooden oar with the Diamond Head Classic logo on it as extra carry-on baggage to take back to Las Vegas.

Willis scored 12 points in each of the Rebels' first two games in Honolulu.

Also on the five-man all-tournament roster were Saint Mary's forward Omar Samhan, Hawaii guard Dwain Williams, USC forward Marcus Johnson and USC guard Mike Gerrity, who was also named tournament MVP.

Gerrity strikes again

Friday didn't mark the first time in which Gerrity got the best of the Rebels.

As a freshman at Pepperdine, he carried his squad to a 75-61 upset at the Thomas & Mack Center on Dec. 22, 2006.

In that game, the Yorba Linda, Calif., native had 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists to his credit.

Gridders offer support

On hand to support the Rebels on Friday were a pair of fellow student-athletes and Hawaii natives in Malo Taumua and Kamu Kapanui.

Taumua, who will be a senior next season at defensive end for first-year UNLV football coach Bobby Hauck, flew home on Thursday for the holidays. He met up at the Stan Sheriff Center with Kapanui, a long snapper who just wrapped up his senior season with the Rebels.

Taumua said he was inspired earlier this week by a speech given by Hauck to the returning players on the day he was introduced as the 10th coach in program history.

The final word

Willis on just what USC did defensively to take UNLV out of the game so early: "It's one of those things I'm just not sure about. I'm not sure, but we didn't play like we wanted to play. I really can't pin-point a thing at the moment, but we have a long plane ride to reflect on it."

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  1. C+ sounds accurate to me. Their so called "quality wins" arent as impressive as they could have been. Reno is a .500 team, Louisville is on a down year, Arizona is rebuilding, Southern Illinois is their best win.

    24 wins sounds accurate. They will finish behind BYU and NM. Will have to win the conf tourney to make NCAA's. They have the guards to be a top 25 team. The big men will be their downfall once again.

  2. The disappointing thing about the 2 losses this year is how we lost. Totaly outmatched at every position. Physically pushed around.

    If you think Cory Joseph will be the answer next year, your sadly mistaking. He will be 1 of 7 guards we already have. We need to focus all our attention on signing quality power forwards and centers. Front line players that can block a shot for once. Marshall might have more blocks than Shaw, Massamba, and Santee put together. And don't tell me Buckley is quality. Buckly is a project.

    So, does anybody know who the Rebels might be looking at in the class of 2010 or 2011 that might fill our need?

  3. we need athletes! recruiting!

  4. USC made us look like a high school team.

  5. Man, Dwayne Polee would help to cure all of this......

    He would single-handedly out-match teams with his freakish athleticism.

    All I got to say is..If we don't get him, I hope we don't play him.

  6. Dwayne Polee weighs 5 lbs less than Kobe and he is his height. He has strength and leaps.

    He wont cure EVERYTHING, but he WILL do a whole lot to cause hell for whoever we play

  7. quit crying about next year 11. we got whipped... tired of the cj and polee talk.. neither have signed.. neither probably will. Focus on conference play and quit being a noob rebel fan.

  8. Cmon guys, we are still pretty good, top 25, but Kruger has this idea if you have two fouls in the first half you don't play. Thats what happened to Jasper and Stanback and other times to willis. Stanback's fouls were terrible calls. Both high screens, and then chopper gets knocked out of bounds on a lay-up and there was no call, to point out a couple. UNLV did play terrible, but the refs sure were not doing us any favors. USC was in the bonus before they even committed a 2nd foul. Also we played without two of our best guys, jasper and Stanback. The second half the Rebels outscored USC. They play more and we are right there to win. I agree, our big men are soft and hurt us when we try and get open shots. As bad as it looked, with 4-5 min left, Shaw missed two or three threes and we threw the ball away two or three times. We score a few of those and we would have been well within 4-6 points.
    UNLV is not going to win every game, so dropping KSU and a much improved USC is not the end of the world. Anyone thinking BYU will be great? Nevada put 104 pts on them and they struggled against the same Hawaii team we dominated. We will, be fine in conference, because we do have the athletic players that prob only SDSU will be able to compete with. We still might lose a couple on bad shooting nights, but I doubt 6. I think we go 13-3 and win the season and tourney titles.

  9. I am not whining about next year. People are saying Kruger doesnt recruit athletic players. He wowed the MOST ATHLETIC PLAYER in the 2010 class.

    Polee visited UNLV over a month ago. His family was seen in the bookstore purchasing UNLV gear. He hasn't scheduled a visit since. That doesn't exactly mean Kruger has him locked up, but it probably means something along the lines of: he liked UNLV ALOT and unless a perfect opportunity comes up, UNLV is the frontrunner. Still think we have no shot at Polee.

    Now w/ CJ, I know our chances are low. I still have hopes.

    Once again, I am talking about next year b/c ppl think we have reached our ceiling under Kruger. That is not true. Because I guarantee you that whatever this team does, next years team beats that. (They lose Santee/Chop..gain Athletic bigs in Lopez&Thomas)

    I guess I'm still a noobie fan..despite the fact you post on here and the diehards are over on the other forum. But okay! :-)

  10. what's the other forum? I'd rather listen to that than all of this doom and gloom.

  11. Bring back Reggie Theus! He has to be better than Chopper.


  12. Wohoo Reggie Theus made NM-St decent! Then went to the Kings and got fired.....

    ...what exactly has he proven in coaching to show us he should coach at UNLV?

    I love him as a player..but as a coach, he hasn't proven all too much...

    How bout bring in Larry Johnson as an assistant?

  13. So now you are looking at the stars on a recruits name? How bout you watch them play.

    Beas Hamga *****
    Justin Hawkins (not even in top 100 @ his position)
    Rene Rougeou was not recruited out of HS.

    Just look up Dwayne Polee on YouTube. He is the best athlete in his class. If someone can jump higher than him in 2010, show me. He probably has as high of a vertical as LeBron James, if not, then higher.

    Also, his stock is rising quickly. I saw on a top 100 the other day that CJ was #20 overall and Polee #27. :)

    So we all want an athlete....look no further, Dwayne Polee :)

  14. I hate to break this to you guys, but UNLV will most likely never, ever get 5 star, mcdonald all-american types every year, so quit hoping. Those kids go to Duke, or Kansas, or Kentucky, or UNC. It's just a fact of college b-ball life. Even in the high flying days of Tark's best recruiting classes, the best were transfers or Juco guys, we were lucky to land maybe one McD here and there. It takes some time, Kruger is just getting this thing going. Enjoy the success we're having now (yes 12-2 is successful...remember Bayno and Spoonhauer?) Let's see how we do in conference. Our guys are small and they could play better defense but we still have half a season to improve.

  15. liljoe31,
    you are right on.
    If any of you have read any of Tark's books, he says several times how he wouldn't even go after kids bc he felt he had no chance. A few of the McD's AA's he got were b/c they called HIM and told HIM they were interested.

    Tark lived off of Juco kids and transfers from other schools. Oh, and Tark didn't win a NC for over 15 years...he got 1 Final Four in the 70s, 1 in the 80s, and 2 in the 90s. That is it!

    So, even the best coaches cant get to the FF every year! But Kruger has been there so his ceiling is not the sweet 16.

    Do not judge a player by the stars next to his name. How about you judge a player by the videos you see on his game and the #s he puts up!!

  16. Thanks, rebelsfan. And I am a big Polee guy myself. The kid is just ridiculous. Wherever he goes I would be surprised if he stays two years. He seems like a one year and NBA draft type kid

  17. First thing, a player is NOT defined as great because of the stars next to his name.

    Dwayne Polee will help with quite a few problems. He won't hurt the rebounding problem. He will cause matchup nightmares for the other team. Oh and did you forget we have TWO big men redshirting who will be UNDERCLASSMEN next season!?

    Those are the 2 guys we hope to cure our rebounding problems.

    We want Polee to help guard the athletic players that we have had trouble with and to be the athletic player other teams have trouble with. Also, the kid has more upside than just about any other kid in his class. He is also a workhorse, which does not hurt at all.

    He is the best player that UNLV has the most realistic shot at. I would LOVE to have him. Last season he was a *** recruit, on the newest top 100 made by a Rivals writer, CJ was #20 and DP was #27. That shows how much upside he has and how quick he can improve.

  18. Polee committed to USC in 8th grade and wasnt on the AAU circuit bc he didnt need to get attention from colleges! He already had one.

    Now that he is free, he had already hopped to #27..I just think that is VERY impressive.

    Also, Polee visited UNLV over a month ago. He hasn't scheduled a visit to another school since. Does that mean he really likes UNLV? Maybe, maybe not. But it definitely means other schools aren't up in his face, which isn't bad!

  19. I might be way off base here, and I don't know the kid personally, but I really think Polee is coming. The only other schools he lists as "considering" are Pac-10 schools. The Pac-10 is becoming a slow tempo, defensive grindfest in recent years. His style is more conducive to an MWC style of basketball: uptempo, more open style that the MWC is beginning to feature. But, as someone wisely pointed out, he hasn't even verbally committed, so this is all speculative.
    And I am looking at this year as a rebuilding year, next year's roster will be a little more balanced, and will have more experience at the guard position. So to sit and say how terrible Kruger is at recruiting and we have no talent I think is a little harsh and also unrealistic. Believe me, I have sat for many years in the T&M and watched some of our teams with no talent. Kaspers Kambala? You can't be serious, dude. Isn't that guy an MMA fighter or something? If he did get drafted I hope that GM is no longer employed, because as much as I loved the guy, he had very little in the way of basketball skills, i.e. a shot, ball handling, etc. He could bang with the best of them, and usually fouled out before halftime, but NBA quality? Comeon...

  20. I agree. Kruger can't recruit athletic or big guys. We have a a 6 year sample to work with. Someone said he is allergic to them, and they might be correct. LOL.

  21. Obviously, we don't have a Shawn Marion on this year's squad. But i think Willis, when healthy, is as good if not better than Nesby and/or Marcus. remember the kids we have now are underclassmen, Willis is a junior. Was Tyrone Nesby as good as Willis as a junior? At the least it's debatable. I think we have the talent I am beginning to wonder about Kruger's coaching ability. We have talent it seems like we are really lacking fundamentals. Passing, rebounding, setting and moving your feet, etc. Which is odd because before last season it seemed that Kruger focused almost obsessively on fundamentals. And yes, I would love to have Kasper the friendly ghost on this team are you kidding? i am not arguing that we need some serious help in the "toughness" department. i am arguing that our talent is not as bad as being "unable to compete on a national level" that's all. Believe me I have concerns, any knowledgeable Rebel fan should, I'm just not ready to call for Kruger's head just yet or say he can't recruit. Let's remember Kruger has won NCAA tournament games two separate seasons, first time since the Shark. Let's give the man a little respect/credit for that and let him try to continue to build UNLV to where we all know we should be...

  22. There was not one person excited when we beat USC-Upstate.

    Marcus Banks was a BUST in the nba. That is like saying that Kwame Brown is better than Louis Amundson because he was drafted #1. Louis Amundson is a better player than Kwame Brown and was UNDRAFTED!!!

    The years of Clark, Marion, Banks, etc had teams with one great player and a few average players.

    This years team has several good players, atleast.

    Recruiting improves each season, what else is there to ask?!?

  23. Let's see how we end up the year. We've had a couple of disappointing losses this year, but it's been a relatively successful year so far. I won't comment on the recruiting until the season is over. I will say that I haven't been to happy with how Kruger recruits, but I am willing to see how it plays out this year.


  24. LMAO, 11 you always get schooled when trying to talk about past history of UNLV because you claim to know things that you don't.

    11 is widely known as a male groupie so cut him some slack. Nobody can say anything about his hero Lon Kruger or he gets defensive. He'll immediately send Kruger and the rest of the players some tweets and facebook messages.

  25. 2003 was a great draft no question. Marcus was just insanely quick with a great handle and terrific defender. Not much of a jumpshot, though. Willis is a scorer but nowhere near as quick or as tough on defense as Marcus. I would include Marshall as a marginal NBA prospect as well with a lot of potential. Kid is very raw now but the boy can play at a very high level just wait and see (I like that he's from Vegas, too so maybe I'm somewhat biased) Let's remember kenn, this isn't an NBA farm club, this is a university basketball program and ultimately, the point is to win games at this level, not give a first round pick to the Grizzlies. These kids have chosen to play for UNLV so let's give them some support and I do think you underestimate the talent of these kids. Just because we had bad nights against USC and K-State doesn't mean we won't improve. I have confidence we'll be ready for BYU next week.

  26. Also, 11 does have a point about Amundson. And look how well Joel Anthony has been doing for the Heat, getting minutes and blocking shots. Just because you don't have that first round "talent" doesn't mean you can't play the game and be successful. It's been fun reading all the posts, I still got the Fever even after that painful loss Friday (talk about a Christmas spoiler). Peace

  27. where you are drafted does not define one single thing.

    Ask Darko Milicic of that class.

    I am 19 btw so I only know what I've read from Tark's books about the Tark years

  28. the best player on the most successful team should be the best player of the decade.

    Not an NBA prospect on a sub-par team (to UNLVs standards)

    this is why people can argue that Bill Russell (11 rings) is better than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

  29. kenn29,

    things you wrote that I said that I didn't:
    *Kruger is bringing better talent than the Tark years. (didnt say it, not true.)
    *O & Los are some of best players since 91. (Didn't say that!!)
    *Stanback has a chance at being a lottery pick (didn't say that) But, he is a sophomore and a dominant scorer. Definate CHANCE of being a 1st-rd pick.

    Oh, and if the results of Kruger's teams been better than Bayno's, don't you think the overall talent of the team has been just as high, or higher?

    1 NBA-caliber player and a ton of subpar players do not make a college basketball team (Bayno years)

  30. It does not matter if Kruger is an elite recruiter, if there are results then shouldn't that satisfy you?!

    Every season of the last 10 years the NY Yankees had "elite" talent and how many times did they win the World Series?

    How about the 2004 Lakers?? (LAL is my team, btw)

    You cant just come in and establish a good recruiting base on day 1, if you can then you are a damn good coach. The classes have gotten better each year and now several top 100 kids are lookin at UNLV. If it keeps on gettin better each year, please please tell me, what else is there to ask?

    It is very hard to go from 17-14 to 30-4. He is getting closer and closer each season. It took the greatest coach to ever step foot on a UNLV campus, Jerry Tarkanian FIFTEEN YEARS to win a National Championship.

    UNLV got to the Final Four TWO times before that in 17 years. (4 total under Tark). If you expect a FF every season then you simply are expecting more than even Tark could do.

    Oh, and Tark never brought in the elite kids either. He made it work with 5 players that were each great at 1 thing.

  31. WOW!!!

    11, Kenn is obviously a guy who knows what he's talking about. He has embarrassed you numerous times now. The guy has clearly forgotten more basketball than you'll ever know. Stop arguing with him because you're making yourself look really bad. Honestly, stop. From what I see he just wants better recruiting. Let him ask for what he wants. He's been a Rebel supporter for longer than you've been alive. It's not like he's the only one who is asking for better recruiting. There are many people who feel the way he feels but few who deserve to ask for it like him.

  32. By saying elite talent, I mean consistently bringing in top 10-15 players every season. He did get the occasional elite player, but that was not an every day thing for Tark. In his book, it says he had 6 MCDS AA's during his tenure at UNLV. I believe his exact words more than a website.

    He said himself that he didn't have 5 great players. He had 5 players that were each great at 1 different thing; and when you put those 5 together they are great. Read the book.

    I am saying nothing but facts about the Tark years, that is it. If I was saying "Oh, Kruger is a better coach than Lon" than my age comes into the question. I am not saying anything besides FACTS that Tarkanian HIMSELF said.

    Oh, and my family had been a Rebel Donor since before the years at the Las Vegas Convention Center, so lets not talk about donors. I've got just a right to speak out as anyone else.