Individual accomplishments only a minor footnote for Tre’von Willis

Junior guard continues to post great numbers and earn accolades, but plenty is still on the table


Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV guard Tre’Von Willis signals a 3-point shot during the first half of their game against BYU Saturday, Feb. 6, 2010.

#12 BYU vs UNLV

Led by a Tre'Von Willis career-high 33 points, UNLV upended twelfth-ranked BYU 88-74 for the Rebels' seventh straight win over the Cougars at the Thomas & Mack.

UNLV-BYU Basketball

UNLV guard Tre'Von Willis watches his layup go in against BYU Saturday, Feb. 6, 2010, at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV upset 12th-ranked BYU 88-74. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

BYU POSTGAME: A hot, hot first half ... and more

Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer break down UNLV's 88-74 whipping of No. 12 BYU on Saturday afternoon at the Mack to pull even with the Cougars atop the Mountain West Conference standings. The guys give you the key points from the Rebels' 19th win of the season, plus handicap the race for the league's regular season title moving forward.

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Another week goes by and more people around the country seem to know about UNLV junior guard Tre'Von Willis.

He set another benchmark in a junior year to remember in an 88-74 blowout victory Saturday over then-No. 12 BYU.

His career-high 33 points, along with five rebounds, eight assists and zero turnovers, got him nationwide pub from ESPN — both on its Web site and multiple TV broadcasts — and earned him co-Player of the Week honors from the Mountain West Conference.

Still, after cutting his teeth yet again Monday at practice inside the Thomas & Mack Center, Willis called it a team honor.

Coach Lon Kruger was singing the same tune, in a way, saying the most significant contribution Willis has made through 23 games actually is not his numbers.

"Maybe most importantly, he's getting his team ready to practice every day and focus on the next game," he said. "That's kind of another next step in maturing his game. I talked to him today, that's maybe as important, as in value, as those other areas."

But at the same time ...

"It's hard to have expected that much growth," Kruger added. "You hope for that, but the growth of his game across the board — not just scoring — has been terrific."

The story of his overall growth is only half told with the numbers.

In 22 games played, Willis is averaging 18 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. He's had nine 20-point games and two 30-point outbursts. To boot, the junior is currently firing away at a 50 percent clip from the field, 28.9 percent from 3-point distance and 85.2 percent at the stripe. The numbers are up almost completely across the board from a sophomore season in which he averaged 11.4 ppg and shot 37.9 percent from the floor.

Willis has also blossomed as a leader, no longer having to wait in the wings to be vocal or defer that role to a senior class that has paid its dues. Kruger loves to talk about the great pace and tempo the Fresno, Calif., native is playing with, as well. Despite being adept at putting up monster numbers on his own this season — numbers which have him in a neck-and-neck race with BYU's Jimmer Fredette for Mountain West Player of the Year honors — that's never a goal of his.

By playing the way he's supposed to play, it just happens.

"He's a proud guy, a very competitive guy," Kruger said. "He understands that it takes more than his play. He's got to get everyone else around him playing well, and that I think is what he's done a really good job of."

As for the individual accomplishments, Willis can refrain from basking in those or gloating about them with the best of 'em.

He'll lead the 23rd-ranked Rebels (19-4 overall, 7-2 MWC) back into battle at 8 p.m. Wednesday against No. 15 New Mexico, who along with UNLV and BYU is locked up in a three-way tie in the league standings heading into the stretch run. The sense from the team Monday was that no one was ready to rest easy after what was an impressive win Saturday.

Willis knows that his junior year, in the long run, will be judged on one thing — how far the Rebels go.

"The thing is I have high expectations for myself," Willis said. "Anything I've done hasn't surprised me up to this point, but at the same time, looking at it from a team perspective, I like where we're at and the direction we're headed in. We do realize how good we can be as a team."

Bellfield sits out, but worry not

Sophomore point guard Oscar Bellfield, who scored 12 points in Saturday's win, sat out Monday's practice with a sore knee.

He bruised the knee during the second half against BYU and took the extra day to simply rest up a bit more.

He is expected to be back at practice Tuesday afternoon and is considered a go for Wednesday's game.

In his place Monday, freshman Anthony Marshall ran the point with the first team.

A first for the MWC

With UNLV's re-entry into the Top 25 polls on Monday, it marked the first time in the Mountain West Conference's 11-year history that the league has had three teams in both Top 25 polls at the same time.

Wednesday will also mark just the second time in league history that two ranked teams have met in a conference game. The first was a meeting just weeks ago between BYU and New Mexico.

UNLV checked in at No. 23 in the AP poll, while New Mexico is 15th and BYU 17th.

"The league having three teams in there is great exposure," Kruger said. "And it means three teams are playing well, in addition to that."

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  1. Funny how Willis can be solely the ESPN player of the week, but UNLV players always seem to share the MWC player of the week with someone from another team... Thats cool, just that much more motivation for Tre!!! I love a fired up and angry Tre. He just seems to play so much better when a fire is lit underneath him.

    Go Rebels!!! Let's put up another big win on Wednesday over the Hobos and "Co"-POW Hobbson...

  2. Keep up the hard work Tre! I really think the whole team is feeding off of this energy.

  3. Eight assists and no turnovers. Wow! Keep that up, Tre.

  4. If Tre' continues to develop the range on his jumpshot, you might be looking at a future NBA draft pick. Great job.

    Let's not lose focus now, these are the most important three games of this season coming up.

  5. yeah i think we got another rebel going to the league... What a monster!!! I think his ankle is all better now? thats bad news for the mnt west and who ever we see in the big dance!!!
    REBELS [email protected]$

  6. Can I love this team any more? Go, Rebels!

  7. I'll say it right now - the Rebels are underrated. I saw Texas and West Virginia last night, and I truly believe that the Rebels would have provided much more of a challenge to their opponents (Kansas and Villanova, respectively) than those two teams did. Let's see how it plays out in the next 3 games, but if the Rebels can keep playing like this, they will be a significant team to be reckoned with in the NCAA Tournament. I don't think the Rebels will shoot as well as they did against BYU, but they weren't exactly lights out from 3-point range against Wyoming and still won by 28 points on the road!

    And I love Tre' Von Willis' attitude. That focus and leadership was exactly what last year's team was missing. That's why this team is winning those road games against CSU, TCU, and Wyoming instead of losing them like they did last year.

  8. @ Nevadasouthernrebfan, Only if (when) they win the conference and go dancing! Go rebs!

  9. Tre'von > Jimmer/Hobson.... FACT!!!

    Mee, where are you?

  10. I don't think there is any doubt that Willis can play in the NBA. The question is when. Has anyone heard any rumors of him leaving college early?

  11. No chatter on Tre' leaving early bigfish. Tre'Von is the kind of player that will benefit from staying all four years. To show his growth and continued leadership role through out out his college career. It will prove beneficial to his scouting.

  12. Congrat's Tre and keep working hard!!! You're reaping the benefits of all your hard work. Because of your competitive drive you've been a proven leader while keeping harmony amongst your baller brothers. Big Up's to You and the Rebels, continue to grow, mature and stay humble. Finish the Conference Strong! Keep this energy going and enjoy all that your collegiate career has to offer!!! Stay Focused REEEBELLLLLSSS!!!!

  13. man-crush?

  14. It's interesting how many Rebel fans completely overlooked Tre as being this year's team leader. Mee, you out there???:)

  15. You dont become one of the all-time leading scorers in the state of CA by accident. The kid is a stud! Tre, Chace, Jasper and Thomas were all being recruited by UNLV but went to other schools before our S16 run. Glad to see that they changed their mind and came back to the school the should have gone to from the start. This group of guys was built on the backs of the previous group and the next gen will come from the success of these guys. Keep it rolling and UNLV once again be the big dog in the west!