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UNLV BASKETBALL:

Recovered Shaw up to the challenge in the post

6-foot-8 junior, back from knee surgery, is ready to bolster UNLV’s inside game

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Justin M. Bowen

UNLV junior forward Matt Shaw, who tore the ACL in his right knee last summer, looks to bolster the Rebels’ post production this season upon his return.

Matt Shaw

UNLV junior forward Matt Shaw, who tore the ACL in his right knee last summer, looks to bolster the Rebels' post production this season upon his return. Launch slideshow »

Audio Clip

  • UNLV forward Matt Shaw talks about how nothing else -- including his new tattoo -- seems too tough to overcome after healing from ACL surgery on his right knee

Audio Clip

  • UNLV forward Matt Shaw talks about the player he plans on being upon his return from successful ACL surgery on his right knee

Matt Shaw, junior forward

  • Ht./Wt.: 6-8/240
  • Age: 21
  • Hometown: Los Angeles
  • Family: mother, Valerie; father, Stephen; sister, Kaylen
  • At Fairfax High: Averaged 16 points and 8 rebounds as a senior, helping the Lions go 24-3 and finish 16th in the USA Today Super 25 poll. Was a prep teammate of current Rebels swingman Chace Stanback.
  • At UNLV: As a freshman, played in 21 of 37 games, including two of the Rebels’ three games in the NCAA tournament. Averaged 1.3 points and 4.1 minutes … last season, as a sophomore, played in all 35 games, starting seven. Averaged 6.9 points and 4.0 rebounds a game. Sank 24 5-pointers. Went 0-for-6 from the field, and 6-fot-8 at the line, against Kansas in the second round.

Not too long ago, Matt Shaw's tattoo artist of choice came to his home to apply the latest piece of art to the UNLV junior forward's person.

The tall, intricate design is permanent on the left side of his ribcage. It begins large and fierce at the top, right under his upper arm, and features the Greek lettering of his fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi.

It tails all the way down to his hip, growing narrower until its end.

It looks nothing short of painful to have had applied. And it certainly was.

But to Shaw, who less than a year earlier went through surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee -- plus the subsequent discomfort that comes with rehab -- it wasn't unbearable.

"That's what I was thinking about the whole time," Shaw said. "I was just thinking about when I was laid up in the bed after surgery. I couldn't move, couldn't bend my leg, it was tough, but that's a lot of motivation with anything. If I could go through that ACL surgery, I could go through anything."

Anything includes a couple of drops of ink and a measly little needle.

Whether it's the tattoo experience he draws from, the surgery, the recovery or even down to the helpless feeling of struggling for a couple of weeks to get up to simply make a sandwich or change clothes, expect a different Matt Shaw on the floor this fall.

Especially in one area where the Rebels were constantly craving more production from a year ago -- the low post.

"I'm gonna primarily be spending my time in the key and work from there," Shaw said. "My sophomore year, I kind of looked at it as I did both, maybe more shooting, but I could see myself doing more work in the post this year. At the same time, when I have those opportunities (away from the basket), I'm going to take them."

Coach Lon Kruger can almost put a percentage on what he wants in terms of Shaw's offensive balance.

"I think it was probably 60-40, 65-35 jumpshooter versus low post (before the injury)," he said. "Because we need more low post scoring, we need to balance it out a little bit more."

As in, say, 50-50?

"That would probably be ideal," he responded.

In the Rebels' quest to make sure a smaller lineup isn't needed again next season, Shaw is somewhat of a forgotten man to most.

A lot of that has to do with the fact that his last game was played back on March 22, 2008, in a second-round NCAA Tournament loss to Kansas in Omaha, Neb. In that game, Shaw picked up four fouls and scored six points in 15 minutes on 0-for-6 shooting, including 0-for-4 from long range. He was 6-for-8 at the stripe that day.

Just before last summer's team trip to Australia, he hurt the aforementioned knee, and didn't return to the practice floor until late last season.

But the time off might turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Shaw. Heck, the 6-foot-8 Los Angeles native doesn't even disguise it that much, as he gushes over the differences the past year have made for him.

"It definitely makes you realize whether you really love the game or not," he said. "I also feel like by sitting there, you get a different perspective watching the game. I can sit there and watch rather than paying attention to your focuses or what coach is telling you to watch.

"You get to see the whole game, see what's going on, and I feel like my basketball IQ has gotten higher since then."

That doesn't mean that watching was always easy. During home games, Shaw was behind the Rebels’ bench in street clothes. For road games, he and the other redshirts and transfers convened at a local Buffalo Wild Wings.

Either way, the slide to a 21-11 finish was painful.

"It's tough being a redshirt," he said. "You want to say so many things, but you don't know how guys will really take that. I was a little hesitant sometimes telling people certain things. It's different. That was a different experience for me. You're a part of the team, but you just can't play."

Now, if Shaw looks more comfortable being tethered a bit more to the painted area this season, some of the credit could come to his having to imitate the upcoming opposition's biggest guy in practice late last spring -- his only opportunity to be on the floor in his third year at UNLV.

It was by default, of course, as he was the tallest of the blackshirt squad comprised of transfers and redshirts.

"It was fun," he said, citing former Utah center Luke Nevill as his favorite to imitate. "We used to have fun every day, because we would really get into our roles. We kind of took it like an acting job. It kind of helped me posting up. It helped my game as well as my teammates."

Shaw hopes he won't physically resemble the practice player of a year ago, though, as he's still in the process of trimming some of the weight he put on during his recovery.

Currently at 250 pounds, he said he hopes to be at 235 come fall -- the same weight he played at in 2007-08.

But he says no matter what weight he's ultimately at, he understands the need for production down low.

Last season, with Shaw out and expectations on Beas Hamga going unfulfilled before his transfer, consistent numbers never came from juco transfer Darris Santee and freshman Findlay Prep product Brice Massamba.

After a promising start to his first season as a Rebel, Santee ended up averaging 5.3 points and 2.6 rebounds per game as his minutes dwindled. Massamba provided energy, but his averages hardly popped off the page, at two points and 1.3 rebounds per game.

Meanwhile, UNLV ranked last among all Mountain West Conference teams in rebounds allowed per game (36) and rebounding margin (-3).

Shaw's injury came following a sophomore season where he only got better as it wore on.

He averaged 6.9 points and four rebounds for the campaign as a whole.

Now he and incoming Findlay grad Carlos Lopez will be two more big bodies heavily relied upon for bolstering UNLV's post presence.

Given Shaw's last year -- surgery, tattoo and all -- it's no big deal.

"That's how I try to look at stuff, anytime things get a little hard, because that's how I feel last year was like," Shaw said. "But I've been given another chance, another opportunity, and I'm gonna take advantage of it."

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  1. I see Matt as being the pick and pop guy this year. Joe D was good in the position, but towards the end of the season, teams knew he was going to pop out to the three line. When Joe would go to the hole, instead of the three, teams weren't phased by it. Hopefully Matt will provide enough of the inside game that will make the "pop" more effective.

  2. I don't think many of us fans truly realize how much the team missed this guy last year. The last part of the 2007-08 season, he was a valuable weapon. Matt could have helped a ton this past season. He can be a good tool for this coaching staff that likes to expose mismatches when they have them.

    Being such a solid shooter from the outside makes him tough for some big guys to defend. And he's more effective in the paint than Joe D., so more of a challenge to guard. Agree with the post above that the "pop" may be more effective with Matt because of this. Also, he was the most consistent 3-point shooter on the team at the end of his sophomore year.

    Excited for Jasper, Stanback, Jones and the three freshmen (maybe four? Come to LV Noel!). But let's not forget about this guy coming back. Fourth year in the program and a solid baller. Think he could be a nice surprise for us fans without many expectations.

  3. Matt - It's good to see you back and recovered. Remember not to push yourself too much, you don't want to re-injure yourself. We will appreciate anything you can give the team, but don't sacrifice your long term health for short term gains.

    S711

  4. Totally agree 57.

    I was at the first practice last year when he was trying to run with the team, and just couldn't. He was in pain and you could tell that something was very wrong.

    It gave me a sick feeling when he couldn't continue. I remember thinking then that if we went on to not meet expectations that year (which we didn't) that Shaw would be a huge reason why.

    I'll go back and watch the Kent State game in Omaha from time to time (get my fix) and he was aboslutely awesome in that game. Came off the bench and contributed, made play after play.

    Not only that. He's a very respectful, well spoken young man and a great teammate. He was always telling his teammates words of encouragement while sitting out.

    When Rene replaced him in the starting line up, you never saw him have a bad attitude or complain. He just kept working hard.

    When you look at the progress he made from his freshman to sophmore year, it would not surprise me at all if he made a huge impact this year.

    Best of luck this season, Matt.

  5. Sinatra. Mentally, the injury doesn't seem to be any kind of a roadblock for Shaw. He mentioned how it took about a week or two upon coming back to forget about re-tearing the ACL, and once that hurdle was cleared, he felt like himself again. I think he could be a pretty pleasant surprise for UNLV fans this fall.

  6. Correction to my post:

    When I said first practice last season, I meant the first practice before the AUS trip.

    That was after the pickup game where he got injured, but before he knew the extent of the damage.

  7. Don't believe the hype. I'm pulling for this kid, but he has not proved himself. He really liked hanging around the three-point line two years ago and didn't really make an impact the 35%-40% of the time he spent in the paint. I do like the fact that he was forced to imitate the the opposing teams big man in practice, but when you're not 100%, how much effect can that really have. I want to believe this article, but I need to see it with my own eyes.

  8. Go get em Matt Shaw, dude you're the man!
    BMOC (big man on campus)

  9. JerryWayne....Give me some numbers as to why we shouldn't believe the "hype". He has proven himself plenty and the team is better with Matt Shaw on it. Since you don't have any numbers and seem to have forgotten what Matt Shaw did two years ago, let me help you out:
    .
    .
    .
    Matt Shaw: 19 minutes per game, 7 points,
    4.1 rebounds

    Rene Rougeau: 27 minutes per game, 9 points,
    6.1 rebounds

    Curtis Terry: 32 minutes per game, 10.8 points,
    3.2 rebounds

    .
    .
    .
    Give him Rougeau's minutes, and he would have put up 10 points and over 5 boards a game.

    Give him Terry's minutes, and he would have put up 12 points and 7 boards.

    The rotation was a little different on that years team and we ran a lot of 3 guard offense, but his production speaks for itself. The fact is, he will be incorporated heavily into this team as long as he keeps healthy and gets his basketball legs back. Plus, getting to work out with Quintrell Thomas everyday will only make him that much better!!

  10. Not a big fan of his game but I'm pulling for him. Go Rebels!!!!

    Mee, where are you my son?

  11. I love it when people are SOOOOOO much smarter than me. Read my post. I haven't forgotten two years ago.

    The kid put up 73 three-point attempts that year. That was 4th on the team. We're talking about the impact he's going to have in the PAINT. He only got 6 more total rebounds than Corey Bailey. I want someone that's 6'8" to crash the boards all the time.

    If you think he was a dominating factor in the low post, you obviously weren't at the games. It's cool if he's your roommate and all, I just stated that I'll believe it when i see it this year. Don't forget, I WANT HIM TO PLAY WELL.

    P.S. comparing him to Terry, Rougeau, and Darger is asinine.

  12. Shaw's 24 5-pointers must have led the team his sophomore year. I don't recall anyone else having a single one. Then again, I don't recall Shaw hitting any either. Ryan, that may be a typo.

  13. 57 - There's no Jones on the roster.

  14. I hope Shaw has a big season but I'm not pinning all our low post hopes on him yet. It's gonna be real interesting to see who out of Shaw, Santee, Massamba or Lopez is going to step up and give us an inside game. Surely they can't all struggle like last year.

  15. Thank you Sun staff for all the great coverage!With how the last season ended, this summer would feel a whole lot longer and be a whole lot harder if we didn't have your articles to feed or rebel news appitites! Best of luck to Shaw, hope he can get back into shape and be a force.

  16. Lenny, there is a Jones on the roster.

    As in Steve "Chopper" Jones, senior guard from ASU (walk-on transfer).

  17. No one could be more excited than me to see Matt's return to the court. Thank you all for your support and encouragement. This is the first time since he was about 9 that Matt hasn't played basketball so he should be pretty hungry for the game. Here's hoping the Rebels have a successful season this year and that Matt plays a big part in that success!

  18. GOOD LUCK MATT BABY.....MELAH

  19. You're right, I forgot about Chopper Jones. Sorry Chop.

    Good to see Matt's mom post on here. Why not. The good thing for Matt is he now has two years to really make a big impression at UNLV. It's like he gets two shakes at it as a senior. Missing last season was a blessing, it turned out to be a nightmare year anyway with the capitulation in conference.

  20. I am so very proud of you Matthew. Your Auntie Twig from Chicago will be pulling for you big time. I know you will post em up hard in the paint, bust a few three's from the corner, go baseline and poke a reverse dunk on em. I can't wait for your season to start. Everyone in my office is pulling for you to have a great season. See you soon, Aunt Twig

  21. Matt we missed you last year on the court. I'm glad you used this time off as a learning tool. Sounds like you have a great attitude too. Can't wait to watch you and the rest of our Rebels this year.

  22. he's a hack the only balls he's good with are on my cock.YOU SUCK TARBABY

  23. Matt, having had an ACL tear myself, I know the hard work it takes to get back into the game. Just the fact your back in uniform and going to be on the floor says a lot about your character and determination. I hope you have a big year! Good luck Matt!!!

  24. Gotta concur, a bit, with JWayne. Shaw might not be the easy panacea for the Reb's shortcomings on the boards many are expecting. There's a lot hinging on Lopez, in that department (Unless Massaba has lost some baby fat and gained some man muscles). And while Lopez appears to be a beast in the making, it's hard to count on a true frosh for significant contributions.

    The team is probably going to need to get a few extra boards a game from the 1-3s. On the defensive end, it concerns me that having them crash the glass could lead to more easy transition bucket for the opposition.

    All that being said, I like Matt Shaw's game a lot. Watching him reveals that he's a player that gets the game. He's one of the few players that self-reflects on the subject - mentioning the importance of improving his hoops IQ. In college, having guys with talent and brains is huge (can you get the NCAA to give you another year of elibility, Kevin Kruger?).

    Shaw coming back is going to be a huge help. He seems like a solid young guy, and I wish him well.