Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Friday, March 29, 2013 | 2 a.m.
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The wheels are still turning and the pieces aren’t yet all in place, but that can’t stop UNLV coach Dave Rice from getting excited about the 2013-14 season. Neither does the disappointing end to his sophomore campaign, which ended last week in San Jose, Calif., with a 64-61 loss to Cal in the Round of 64.
Roster announcements are still forthcoming, but one you shouldn’t expect to hear is anything about freshman Katin Reinhardt. Despite reports to the contrary, Rice said Reinhardt made clear his intentions to remain in Las Vegas.
“Katin is working hard and excited to build on the experience he got as a freshman,” Rice said. “He has told me and our staff he will be on our team.”
While fellow freshman Anthony Bennett hasn’t made his NBA draft intentions official yet, that announcement is expected to come soon, and good luck finding anyone who thinks he will stay. There’s also junior Mike Moser, who doesn’t appear on many draft boards right now but may take his chances anyway.
Elsewhere on the roster, junior Carlos Lopez-Sosa will have the same choice that Quintrell Thomas had last year: return, graduate and move on or transfer to another D-I program and play right away, as long as he takes a grad course not offered at UNLV. Just like the Rebels did with Thomas, the staff is open to Lopez-Sosa’s return with Rice saying the former Findlay Prep player could have a chance to be a big contributor along with Khem Birch at center.
Throw in the fact that assistant coach Justin Hutson is destined for a head-coaching job sooner or later, possibly including this offseason, and you can see there’s a lot left to figure out for UNLV. Despite all of that, there are a few things Rice says with certainty, and one is about an upcoming change of pace that fans have been clamoring for: full-court press.
“We want to pick up after made baskets, we want to pick up after free throws, and we want to pick up on dead balls,” Rice said. “We want to make teams have to use the entire court to bring the ball up the floor. We think with our depth, with our versatility, with the guys we have we’ll be able to do a lot more of that this upcoming year.”
Rice said he didn’t anticipate the Rebels’ pressure quite reaching the level of VCU’s infamous Havoc defense, but he does want it to be a staple of what they do. And a big piece of that — really a big piece of everything the Rebels will do next year — is junior-to-be Roscoe Smith.
The UConn transfer worked almost exclusively at small forward on the scout team this season, but at 6-foot-8 and 205 pounds, Smith has a very similar build to Moser, and he has similar inside-out skills.
“He’s improved his perimeter game considerably. We have the flexibility and he has the versatility to play the 3 or the 4,” Rice said. “Plus he can guard both positions, and that’s a big deal to us.”
He also has a track record of winning, having cut down a couple of nets as a starter on the Huskies team that stormed through the Big East and NCAA tournaments three seasons ago. That’s experience UNLV won’t have at point guard, though it should have plenty of options.
“The thing that’s important for us, generally speaking, is to have great depth at the point and to have guys who can play multiple positions but who have point guard mentalities and point guard skills,” Rice said.
Reinhardt played some point this season, but he’s more fit for the shooting guard spot, and with a surplus of guards, Daquan Cook could be a redshirt candidate. So could incoming freshman Dantley Walker.
A couple of guys likely to spend a lot of time running the offense aren’t even officially Rebels yet (remember the pieces still coming into place?). Kendall Smith and DeVille Smith still have to sign their letters of intent in April.
While Kendall Smith will be a freshman, DeVille Smith and signee Jelan Kendrick are guys with some D-I playing time, as both come in as junior college transfers with two years of eligibility after multiple stops. All of them will be tasked with pushing the ball more in transition more.
“We want to play certainly faster than we played last year,” Rice said.
That’s a lot of things Rice wants to change. At this time of year, that’s about all he can talk about — the things he wants to do. Once the wheel stops spinning and the pieces are in place, he can start to put together the puzzle.