SUN FILE ART
Thursday, Dec. 31, 2009 | 2:30 a.m.
Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer each take sides in deciding who should be UNLV's Player of the Decade between Wink Adams and Marcus Banks. Plus, a look at the rest of the Sun's all-decade roster.
It was a decade of ups and downs for the UNLV men's basketball program, to say the least.
But along the way, several individuals made their marks — some for four years, some for only one or two.
That said, as the year 2010 is upon us, here is the roster for the Las Vegas Sun's All-Decade Team. The list is capped by a 14th man — the Walk-on of the Decade — as voted on by our readers.
So without further hesitation ...
PLAYER OF THE DECADE
Guard — Wink Adams — 2005-09
In the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world, many people will remember most Adams' senior season, which didn't quite live up to the hype. His scoring average dropped, his field goal percentage dropped and UNLV failed to reach a third consecutive NCAA tournament.
But at the end of the day, Adams was one of the key components of Lon Kruger's program in its rise from the college basketball ashes.
He was the first major get in the recruiting game for Kruger's staff, coming to UNLV in 2005 as the No. 25 prospect in his senior class, according to Rivals.com. Adams and UNLV seemingly were made for each other as the Rebels needed someone to help give the roster a facelift, and Adams, on the other hand, always had dreamed of playing at the school, remembering the program's glory days from his childhood.
Adams ended up sixth on the school's all-time scoring list, with 1,875 points, and led the team in scoring in each of his last three seasons.
The Houston native, who even tattooed his loyalty to UNLV on his shoulder as a senior and played pro ball this season in Turkey, is also third in school history in both 3-pointers made and steals.
His finest campaign came as a junior in 2007-08, averaging 16.9 points per game in leading the Rebels to the second round of the NCAA tourney.
"We needed someone like that at that point to jump us up a level," coach Lon Kruger said. "Wink had a terrific career when you think about the capsule of those four years. Just did a great job. Got his team to the NCAA tournament a couple of times when it hadn't happened in a while. Won some tournament games when it hadn't happened in a while. Was at the core of all of that, defensively and offensively. Loved to play, loved to compete."
THE REST OF THE STARTING FIVE
Guard — Marcus Banks — 2001-03
Banks never took UNLV to the NCAA tournament but had the Rebels on the verge of an automatic bid with two trips to the Mountain West Conference tournament title game. The Rebels wound up in the NIT in both of of the Cimmaron High product's years on campus.
Banks also led UNLV in both assists and steals in each of his two campaigns, and despite only playing two years under Charlie Spoonhour, he's 25th in school history in career points. He was the first Rebel since J.R. Rider in 1992-93 to average more than 20 points per game in a season, scoring 20.3 as a senior in 2002-03. Since his departure, no one's accomplished the feat.
A lottery pick in 2003, going 13th overall to the Celtics, Banks's NBA career hasn't been stellar, but sticking in the league for what is now seven seasons and counting is still an accomplishment. Despite averaging only six points and 2.1 assists per game for his career, Banks will have made more than $20 million in NBA salary alone by the time this season comes to a close.
Forward — Dalron Johnson — 1999-03
The Rebels' career leader in blocked shots with 194, Johnson was as well-rounded as they come. Johnson is ninth on the school's all-time scoring list, compiling 1,728 points over his four seasons. Johnson hit his collegiate peak in the 2001-02 season as a junior, when he led Charlie Spoonhour's first UNLV team in scoring (17.4) and rebounds (7.0). He currently plays professionally in Israel, where he's averaging 12 points and nine rebounds per game.
Forward — Odartey Blankson — 2003-05
Blankson transferred to UNLV from Marquette and ended up as a two-time first team All-Mountain West Conference performer. The Chicago native averaged a double-double as a junior, posting 17.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. He's still playing professionally overseas.
Center — Kaspars Kambala — 1997-01
Though his life since leaving UNLV has been up and down to say the least, Kambala was the Rebels' biggest star as the decade began. He finished up in 2001 as the program's 10th all-time highest scorer and ranks fourth on the school's all-time rebounding list, leading the team in boards in three of his four seasons on campus.
THE BENCH ... IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
Guard — Kevin Kruger — 2006-07
Kruger only played one season at UNLV under his father, but he was the pulse of the program's most successful team of the decade. After transferring from Arizona State, he willed UNLV to the Sweet 16 in the 2007 NCAA tournament by knocking off Georgia Tech and No. 2 seed Wisconsin in Chicago. In the three NCAA tourney games, he totaled 36 points, 19 assists and only three turnovers. He played professionally this year in Italy and may be catching on in the NBA Developmental League again soon.
Guard/Forward — Romel Beck — 2003-05
A juco transfer, Beck enjoyed two stellar seasons in Las Vegas. He averaged 14.2 points per game as a junior, then 13.6 as a senior. The Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., native was deadly from anywhere on the floor on the offensive end and could truly spread an opposing defense thin. In his post-UNLV career, he's best remembered for crossing over Kobe Bryant on a four-point play in 2007 while playing for the Mexican National Team. This season, he's averaging 16.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game for the NBDL's Dakota Wizards.
Center — Louis Amundson — 2001-06
Amundson was a testament to the idea of a player truly blossoming over the course of his career. Coming from Boulder, Colo., the 6-foot-9 big man had questionable hands early in his UNLV career and was a liability at the free throw line. While he was never a stellar shooter at the line, the rest of his game developed, and as a senior in 2005-06 Amundson averaged 14.3 points and 8.6 rebounds for Lon Kruger's club. After bouncing around the semi-pro ranks for a brief stint, he's found a home as a reserve for the NBA's Phoenix Suns.
Forward — Rene Rougeau — 2005-09
Maybe the most improbable standout UNLV has had in recent memory, Rougeau didn't even start as a senior in high school coming out of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. He came in as a walk-on and left as one of UNLV's most influential players this decade. As a senior, the 6-foot-6 Rougeau played just a shade under 30 minutes a game, averaging 10.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and two blocks per game. The Rebels' top energy provider in his final two seasons, he led the team in blocked shots both years. He currently plays for the ABA's Clayton Showtime.
Guard/Forward — Lou Kelly — 1999-02
Kelly's biggest contributions came as a senior in 2001-02, when he averaged 15.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game for the Rebels. It may have only been one stellar year, but, well, he was pretty stellar that year.
Guard — Curtis Terry — 2004-08
On a team that found its way back to the NCAA tournament in 2008 for the second consecutive year, Terry was the man at the wheel, keeping everything in control. That was the capper to his senior season, which saw the Seattle native average 11.1 points, 4.8 assists and 3.3 rebounds a game. He recently returned from his season overseas.
Forward — Wendell White — 2005-07
White was a 6-foot-6, 215-pound bruiser who provided a good amount of toughness during UNLV's run to the Sweet 16 in 2007. That year, as a senior he averaged 14.4 points and 6.1 rebounds a game but cemented his place in UNLV history during the two wins in the tourney's first weekend in Chicago. In those two contests, he combined to score 41 points on 16-of-24 shooting. He's currently playing overseas in Japan.
Guard — Tre'Von Willis — 2007-current
With UNLV currently at 12-2 and potentially en route to its third NCAA tournament appearance in four years, it was only fitting that a current Rebel gets a spot on the roster. No one is more fitting than Willis, who along with Kevin Kruger helped lead the migration of several transfers to the UNLV campus. After coming over from Memphis, Willis was an impact player for Lon Kruger as soon as he became eligible. Despite nagging injuries all season long, he averaged 11.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists last year as a sophomore. He's seen his shooting percentage go up 11 points this season and leads UNLV in scoring, averaging 14.5 points a game and is the team's true leader on the floor.
WALK-ON OF THE DECADE (via reader voting)
Guard — Scott Hoffman — 2005-08
Hoffman made his way to Las Vegas from Hays, Kan., through a connection between his father and Lon Kruger dating back to their days at Kansas State together. In his three seasons following a redshirt year, Hoffman scored three buckets in mop-up duty, including a pair of 3-pointers. But he became a fan favorite, and though many never saw it, developed into quite the practice player, leading the scout team daily into battle against the Rebels' rotation players. He left following last season with one year of eligibility remaining with a degree in hand and now works in Las Vegas.