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REBELS BASKETBALL:

Darris Santee set for home finale following two years of all-around growth at UNLV

Former juco transfer has blossomed not only as a player, but as a student and person in Las Vegas

Image

Justin M. Bowen

UNLV big man Darris Santee dribbles around Dairese Gary during the game against New Mexico on Jan. 9 at The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M. The Rebels beat the 15th-ranked Lobos, 74-62.

UNLV vs. Wyoming

  • UNLV Rebels (22-7, 10-5) vs. Wyoming Cowboys (10-19, 3-12)

  • Where: Thomas & Mack Center

  • When: 1 p.m.

  • Coaches: Lon Kruger is 134-60 in his six seasons at UNLV and 452-293 in 24 overall seasons; Heath Schroyer is 41-51 in his three seasons at Wyoming and 76-98 in six overall seasons.

  • Series: UNLV leads 25-14

  • Last time: UNLV won, 78-50, on Feb. 3 in Laramie.

  • Line: UNLV by 20

  • TV/Radio: Versus/ESPN Radio 1100-AM

  • THE REBELS

  • G Oscar Bellfield (6-2, 180) 9.3 ppg, 4.5 apg, 2.5 rpg

  • G Anthony Marshall (6-3, 200) 5.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg

  • G Tre'Von Willis (6-4, 195) 17.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.5 apg

  • F Chace Stanback (6-8, 210) 10.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg

  • F Darris Santee (6-8, 225) 4.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg

  • Bench: F Brice Massamba (6-10, 240) 4.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg; G Justin Hawkins (6-3, 190) 3.4 ppg, 1.5 rpg; G Kendall Wallace (6-4, 190) 7.1 ppg, 1.6 rpg; F Matt Shaw (6-8, 240) 7.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg; G Steve Jones (6-1, 220) 1.7 ppg, 1.1 rpg.

  • What to watch: In a game that isn't expected to be close, plenty of eyes will be on Matt Shaw, who returns to the lineup after missing four games with a sprained left ankle. He's shooting 45.3 percent from 3-point range, and was a combined 7-of-12 from deep in the four games before he was injured.

  • THE COWBOYS

  • G JayDee Luster (5-9, 165) 5.9 ppg, 4.4 apg, 3.1 rpg

  • G Desmar Jackson (6-5, 175) 11.3 ppg, 2.2 rpg

  • F Ryan Dermody (6-9, 205) 5.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg

  • F Djibril Thiam (6-10, 205) 9.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg

  • C Adam Waddell (6-10, 235) 9.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg

  • Bench: G Arthur Bouedo (6-4, 165) 6.2 ppg, 1.6 rpg; F Daylen Harrison (6-6, 220) 2.7 ppg; G Amath M'Baye (6-9, 200) 5.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg.

  • What to watch: Since losing leading scorer Afam Muojeke to a knee injury mid-way through the season, the Cowboys' roster simply has been ravaged. One bright spot of late has been freshman guard Desmar Jackson, who in Wyoming's last three games has averaged 23 points per contest.

The Rebel Room

Time for the stretch run ... and a new home

Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer get you set up for UNLV's stretch run to close out the 2009-10 men's basketball season, plus talk about the impact of the new Mendenhall Center, which will serve as the home for the program for years to come.

If UNLV's men's basketball team was to have its two graduating seniors give speeches Saturday afternoon following the regular-season finale against Wyoming, Darris Santee's would be easy to miss if you diverted your attention elsewhere for, oh, 30 seconds.

Never one to say much in any setting, that's about the only thing that hasn't changed about the 6-foot-8 Houston native in his two years on the UNLV campus.

"I feel I've changed all-around as a person," he said. "I've changed in the classrooms. I became a smarter and better player; my mental game came a long way.

"I think (being here) helped a lot."

The line of people who will gladly attest to that is lengthy.

But the one he can't wait to show it all off to Saturday is his mother, Carolyn Santee, who will make the trip this weekend to see her second UNLV game.

The last time she saw the third-oldest of her five sons play was his first game as a Rebel last season against San Diego.

In that 65-60 Rebels victory, Santee debuted with seven points and six rebounds.

Since then, there have been plenty of ups in terms of numbers. He posted 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting in a win last season at Fresno State and this year had 13 points, five rebounds and one emphatic poster dunk on Louisville's Jared Swopshire in the Rebels' most impressive non-conference triumph of the season.

His scoring average dropped from 5.3 to 4.5 from his junior season to this point in his final year, but Santee has become a more aggressive and productive rebounder, improving from 2.6 per game as a junior to 3.4 this season, and also a more efficient offensive threat. His 60.7 percent shooting this season is up from 52.2 a year ago.

Though he hasn't become more outgoing in his time at UNLV, his growth on the floor is noticed by his teammates and is a direct result of his work with Rebels strength and conditioning coach Jason Kabo.

Kabo said that the team's weight room includes equipment that measures the speed of players' repetitions, thus determining overall power output. And no one has made the progress over the last two years that Santee has.

"He was never jumping up and dunking with two hands before," Kabo said. "Now he's doing it, and it's to his credit. He decided to stay here this summer and he did a lot of good stuff, didn't miss a workout, was here every day, had a good work ethic about it and it shows.

"He's never been a bad worker, so that's to his credit. He's always done a really good job. if I could have a bunch of guys that work like him, I'd have an easy job, because that's not always the case."

He's started games at times, then at others he's dipped in the rotation. Sometimes he's been as aggressive and fiery as Lon Kruger and his staff have desired and at other times he hasn't.

Saturday will mark his fourth consecutive start, and that tells a story in itself. With a fluid rotation in the front court, Kruger typically awards more minutes to those who have not only shown the most production of late but also the most fire in games and on the practice floor.

He's hit a hot streak at just the right time in both arenas as the Rebels (22-7 overall, 10-5 Mountain West Conference) take a 3-game winning streak into Saturday against the Cowboys (10-19, 3-12).

"He's always with the same expression of being ready to do whatever I can to help," Kruger said. "He's appreciated by his teammates and coaches fur sure. He's not a big numbers guy, but he's contributed in every game, every day. He's been great."

After coming from a program at Midland (Texas) College where he averaged 14 points one season and won a NJCAA national title the other, his achievements off the court at UNLV give Santee as much pride as those on it.

He's honest in saying that he wasn't quite sure how he'd fare in the classroom when making the leap to UNLV. Instead, he's shined. This spring, he'll have a degree in sociology to show for it.

"We have an advisor, Dave Jackson, who helped me out a lot," he said. "I was able to come through, get all As and Bs, have a good GPA. It means a lot to me, means a lot to my mom, because she's been on me about that, too.

"It means a lot, because my mom raised me and my four brothers by herself and she told us to stay strong. She did a lot for us, so I'm very happy I can do that for her."

Another source of inspiration for him down the stretch run of his college career has been making one of his best friends, Lloyd Dunseth, proud.

Dunseth just two months ago began a 20-year prison sentence in Texas following his arrest in an attempted bank robbery. Santee and Dunseth have been close for going on seven years, and he said when he returns home, he'll be paying Dunseth a visit.

Santee recently sat down to write a letter to Dunseth offering the same encouragement to him which went the other way for so long.

"I think he'd be very proud of me and what I'm doing right now, because he's always been very supportive of me," Santee said. "It lets me know that I'm blessed for the opportunities I get, and you have to take every day and treat it like your last, because it might be."

Where Santee first hopes to seize the opportunity after graduation is on a basketball court somewhere in the world, hoping to play as long as he possibly can, be it in the United States or overseas.

Long term, he's taken a recent interest in maybe following in the footsteps of one of the people who helped his overall progress so significantly in his short time in Las Vegas — Jason Kabo.

"He can be my intern," Kabo said glowingly. "He's seen every aspect of it now."

Shaw will play Saturday, Jasper doubtful

Kruger confirmed following Thursday's practice that junior Matt Shaw will return to game action Saturday after missing UNLV's last four outings with a sprained left ankle.

He took part in live drills for the second consecutive practice, and Kruger said he's close to 100 percent.

As for junior guard Derrick Jasper, who has missed eight games with a partially torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee, he returned to full-speed, full-contact practice Thursday for the first time since going down on Jan. 26 in a 60-50 victory over Air Force.

Jasper looked comfortable while on the floor and missed the close of practice while heading to the training room to ice down and receive some more treatment. However, on Friday morning, he suited up and did some warm-up shooting drills early on in practice, but did not take part in live drills of any kind. He's more than likely doubtful for Saturday.

"If he thinks he's ready, he'll play," Kruger said Thursday. "If he thinks he can't quite, then we'll wait until next week.

"It's totally up to Derrick, because we're not going to rush him back sooner than what he's comfortable doing. That already happened once in his career and that set him back. So it's most important that he has confidence in being out there."

This season, Shaw is averaging 7.5 points and 3.1 rebounds for the Rebels, while Jasper is posting 6.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. UNLV will not be back in action after Saturday until Thursday's Mountain West Conference tournament quarterfinals.

On hand this weekend ...

Attending Saturday's game will be 6-foot-11 UNLV signee Henry Buckley, who is playing prep ball this season at the Central Carolina Sports Academy in Greensboro, N.C.

The New Orleans native has signed a national letter of intent but still is getting his academic standing worked out so that he can enroll at UNLV in time for next season.

Also attending will be former Rebel Wink Adams, who after graduating last season spent this year playing professionally in Turkey. He just recently returned from his first stint overseas.

Adams is sixth on the program's all-time scoring list with 1,875 career points to his credit.

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  1. I hope the seniors get a good reception on Saturday. I've enjoyed watching Santee grow as a player the past 2 years.

  2. Hopefully the run away train doesn't lose any momentum and crushes Wyoming. Then the MTN WEST TOURNAMENT TITLE. We will then get the 7 seed then knock off the crappy Big 10 (2 seed) in the second round. Final four here we come!!!!

  3. I'm hoping that the MWC will receive 4 bids to the BIG DANCE. Yes, I agree, lanea1, a seven seed will be good for the Rebels but I would like to shoot for a 6 seed. In as much as I would like to see the Rebels face Duke in the second round, a 6 seed, I believe, will be easier.
    Great article on Santee. Let's wear white at the T&M and send off our two seniors in style, whether it rains, snows, or is 100 degrees. Any information on Buckley and his grades?

  4. Good luck Darris, wish we could have you around another year...

  5. big fan darris.... wished we had you for 4 years.

  6. Glad you were a part of our program Darris. Good luck with future endeavors, and lets finish the season tough!

  7. Well lets see here, win saturday big, play Colorado State first round (I'm praying) then smack up BYU, only to lose to UNM in the final sounds just about right. That will get us a 6th seed which is what we need and would be perfect. Smack up on a first round foe, play HOPEFULLY Purdue or Duke 2nd game which would be epic, then face probably a Duke or Nova sweet 16. Thats high hopes if I think we're going to make it that far LOL...but we just need an easy road. Its anyones tourney this year.

  8. Ryan - Any playing updates on Buckley as in points, rebounds, and blocks averaged per game. Can't find anything anywhere on him. Why the mystery?

  9. Great article. Good luck Darris! I've enjoyed watching you get more aggressive these past two years!

  10. Santee plays well and has matured a great deal.

    Hope his degree if he graduates isn't in University Studies

  11. It says it's in Sociology William

  12. I guess they are going to include Scott Hoffman to the Senior Day festivities. He could've played one more year but oh well. Barely played that I remember, but nice to see that the Rebels are going to give him some props for graduating UNLV.

  13. gumby, I've been trying just as hard as you to round some up. I'll try my best to get them by season's end. From the people I've talked to at his program, I think stats are tracked pretty loosely ... However, I've talked with Henry and will do something on him this weekend. Sounds like a great kid. He has a great story. He was living in New Orleans when Katrina hit and has had an interesting journey since then.

  14. I enjoy these types of stories. Good to read about the student side of student-athlete.

  15. Congrats to Darris on a great career at UNLV, both on and off the court. Hope he has a standout game against lowly Wyoming tomorrow. Go Rebels!

  16. Very nice Mr. Santee way to earn the degree.

  17. Good luck today against the Cowboys. Good luck in your future. You've shown flashes of really good baskeball. Come out today and dominate over Waddell. I'll be there in the stands supporting you. Go Rebels!!!