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July 17, 2019

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Day 1: Vegemite, thank-yous and a Aussie hello

Runnin' Down Under

UNLV Athletic Department

UNLV guard René Rougeau takes a photo of teammate Beas Hamga during the team’s tour of Australia.

(Filed at 11:43 p.m. June 25, 2008, Sydney time)

I hope everyone is having an excellent day! I am in our Marriott Hotel watching Australian rugby. Aussie Aussie Hoy Hoy! LOL.

When I was a little kid, I never would have guessed that I would be taking a tour of Australia to play basketball. I would like to thank God before anyone else because without him nothing is possible.

After him, I have to thank my head coach, Lon Kruger. This has been a great trip even if it ended today after the fact that coach Kruger has granted me an athletic scholarship.

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Members of the UNLV men's basketball team pose at Bondi Beach during their tour of Australia.

The whole time I was on the flight, people could see me with a big smile on my face thanks to coach Kruger. I am definitely grateful to have a head coach such as him because four years ago he took a chance and let me play for his UNLV team.

I really do admire him and look to him as a father figure. He has really helped me grow into a man. I couldn't have asked for a better head coach.

I also have to thank his son, Kevin, for helping our program. He was instrumental in helping our program regain its powerhouse mentality.

I also would like to thank former Rebels Joel Anthony, Lou Amundson, Dustin "Deezy" Villepigue, Mark Dickel, Sunshine Smith, Kaspars Kambala and Wendell White for helping us prepare for our Australia trip.

Those guys have been role models to me, along with my fellow teammates. They have prepared us for our opponents here. A majority of these guys I have had the pleasure of playing against and have learned so much from them. I want to make sure I thank them. (Even when they embarrassed us in scrimmage games. LOL. We still have taken a lot from those games.)

On the flight over, I was very nervous because I had never been farther than Hawaii. I did not know what to expect. I also want to thank the boosters and fans that accompanied us on the trip because they have done nothing but make me feel at home.

The flight was almost 14 hours, after we left Los Angeles. While in L.A., Wink Adams, Tre'Von Willis, Matt Shaw and myself said hello to Matt's mom. She is from L.A. and she was nice enough to stop by and say hello to us. I'm also from California and that made me feel at home.

I am currently living with Matt and Robert Ketchum; they are probably my best friends in Las Vegas. These guys are like brothers to me and understand every little struggle and accomplishment that I go through. Therefore, when I got the scholarship, they were extremely happy to find out the good news just as I was. Fans and family have been very appreciative of all the work I've done for the team, and most of all they've been very patient.

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Members of UNLV's men's basketball team pose for a photo in front of downtown Sydney during their 2008 tour of Australia

My teammates also have been very supportive of me after finding out that I have been put on scholarship. It is a good day in walk-on history for all. It means that the coaches not only respect but also have a deep appreciation for the walk-ons that are part of the UNLV program. I have been here now four years with Scott Hoffman. He has pushed me to my limits and I thank him very much for that.

In the past, while the team would go on a road trip, Scott and I would be either working out in the Cox practice gym, or watching the game together. Therefore, I owe a majority of my success to Scott.

This is a great rugby game I am watching as I type. One of the things that I have tried since landing in Australia this morning was Vegemite. It is a spread that locals put on bread and the Australian band Men At Work made famous in their old song. It tasted salty. Thank goodness the bread was hot and they mixed it with butter, or I wouldn't have liked it. I tried it with our trainer Dave Tomchek. If it weren't for him, I wouldn't have tried it. I have to give Dave some credit.

Beas Hamga is my roommate for this trip. I look to teach Beas about why it is so important to represent our school and even our country, in the best fashion possible.

I have come to appreciate other countries even more just by being in a different country and having Beas as a roommate. He is a good person and I look to learn a lot about him and the importance of being from a great country, and loving one's home country. Even though he just brought up a very bad fact about the Lakers, I still love him as brother. LOL.

To all fellow Rebel fans, I hope you enjoy my blogs and the great photos and footage that Andy Grossman and Chris Maathuis take of us while we are on this trip. God bless to all, have a wonderful day!

René Rougeau #24

To see additional coverage of the Rebels, check out the team’s official site, Runnin’ Down Under.

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