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UNLV newcomers Lopez, Thomas being looked at to fill void left by Shaw

Kruger expecting early rust, but ultimately key contributions from interior duo


Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV forward Matt Shaw fights for a defensive rebound with Louisville forwards George Goode, left, and Jared Swopshire during the second half of a Nov. 28 contest at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Rebels upset the 16th-ranked Cardinals 76-71.

The Rebel Room

UNLV's wacky offseason ... in case you've missed it so far

After a few wild weeks of offseason activity within the UNLV men's basketball program, Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer sit down to get you all caught up to speed on what happened, plus give you a look at where things are headed as a result.

The advantage of heavy depth last season for the UNLV men's basketball team was that it helped the Rebels compensate for injuries without skipping a beat — or at least as few beats as possible.

Now, instead of having to think on the fly in the midst of a hectic schedule, coach Lon Kruger and his staff will have plenty of time to figure out how to fill a decent-sized void in the rotation.

Matt Shaw, who as a junior last season led the 25-9 Rebels in 3-point accuracy (45 percent) and was the team's fourth-leading scorer (7.0 ppg), failed an NCAA-administered drug test following UNLV's first-round exit from the tournament, ending his UNLV career a year early.

At 6-foot-8 and in the 240-pound range, Shaw filled a critical niche for UNLV, thanks to his ability to draw bigger defenders outside thanks to his long-range shooting. Plus, he was good for a bucket here and there on the interior, plus a few boards a night.

With his absence, junior-to-be Brice Massamba is UNLV's only returning true big man off of last year's roster.

Now the focus will shift toward a couple of new additions — 6-foot-8 sophomore Kansas transfer Quintrell Thomas and 6-foot-11 redshirt freshman Carlos Lopez. The Rebels aren't short on 3-point shooters, so rather than filling that void, Lopez and Thomas are being asked to provide some punch inside first and foremost.

Should he qualify academically, 6-foot-11 incoming freshman Henry Buckley is expected to redshirt next season.

"They'll step in right away, and to what degree is hard to say," Kruger said. "They're both young. Carlos, of course, is a freshman, and Quintrell didn't play much as a freshman at Kansas. Any time you have those situations, like Chace (Stanback) last year and Tre (Willis) the year before, people often forget that it's really two years since they've really played."

The early rust was shaken off by Willis, who played sparingly as a freshman at Memphis, and Stanback, who sported a similar role as a frosh at UCLA, and the duo is now one of the top one-two punches in the Mountain West Conference, combining to average 27.9 points a game last season.

The returning players recently completed postseason individual workouts with the coaching staff, and the two being watched maybe the closest are Lopez and Thomas.

Kruger said he can easily see the potential in both of them.

With Lopez, for anyone who watched UNLV practice last season while the Findlay Prep product ran with the scout team, it's known that the rare skill-set is there.

At just under seven feet, Lopez runs the floor well, can score from anywhere out to 3-point range and has nice ball-handling skills.

He plays the same inside-out style that Stanback employs at 6-foot-8, but Kruger said the goal this offseason for Lopez is to continue to make sure he's ready for the rigors that the "inside" portion of that will present.

Lopez entered the UNLV program last summer at 198 pounds, and under the watch of strength & conditioning guru Jason Kabo, he was at 210 pounds by early February. Along with the strength and more imposing build came visible confidence for the Puerto Rico native on the practice floor.

Kruger said that Lopez will enter the summer floating anywhere from between 215 to 218.

"Developing strength is the biggest thing for him," he said. "He'll always have good instincts. He has good activity; he's rangy and does a lot of things. He'll develop into an outstanding player, it'll just be a process, and it'll be an exciting one."

Physical prowess has never been the issue for Thomas.

While spending much of his freshman season with the Jayhawks mostly wearing his warm-ups, Thomas battled the likes of future NBA center Cole Aldrich on a daily basis at practice.

A natural bull on the interior, Thomas returned from shoulder surgery mid-way through this past season and immediately turned heads at practice.

"He competes hard, should give us a little more of a physical presence," Kruger said. "He'll polish things up, developing those skills facing the bucket. He's a good rebounder, good, tough guy inside."

The offense Thomas can contribute next season as a redshirt sophomore might be looked at as a bonus, as his rebounding is what is needed the most right off the bat.

The Rebels were out-rebounded in all but two of their nine losses last season, including their final five setbacks. In the nine defeats, UNLV's opponents held an average rebounding margin of +6.8.

UNLV's two leading rebounders were a pair of swingmen — Stanback (5.8 rpg) and junior guard Derrick Jasper (4.9). Shaw, Massamba and departing senior Darris Santee — the Rebels three true bigs — combined to pull down 8.4 caroms a game.

Even if Thomas doesn't post huge rebounding numbers early, the presence of his natural attack-the-glass-at-all-costs attitude could prove to be contagious.

Where Kruger said observers might see the biggest change over time in the 245-pound Newark, N.J., native is in his offense.

"He's pretty comfortable being physical inside, but he can make the mid-range jumper, and he's a very good offensive rebounder," he said. "I think with time, he'll improve his skills on the perimeter, face up a little bit more, become more of a face-up guy."

The case of the final scholarship

UNLV had a nice get in landing 6-foot-8 UCLA transfer Mike Moser, but after missing out on a trio of prep prospects — Findlay guard Cory Joseph, Bishop Gorman guard Johnathan Loyd and Westchester (Calif.) High forward Dwayne Polee Jr. — don't get your hopes up in terms of UNLV filling its last open scholarship with an unsigned prospect in the 2010 senior class.

More than likely, that spot will be rolled over into the 2011 class, which would then have four openings to go along with 6-foot-6 forward Grandy Glaze, who committed in March and is ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 83 junior in the country.

"We'll keep our options open, but we're not really expecting anything to happen," Kruger said. "Having that available to carry over, there's nothing wrong with that. When you only lose two seniors from last year, it gives you a little more flexibility and patience."

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  1. I think Thomas is going to be superb helping on the glass. I'm not sure how well he shoots the ball, but he's definitely going to make himself known down low. I hope Kruger plays Lopez mid range, similar to Stanback, but need him on the boards more than anything as well. Massamba should be a little more experienced now, and hopefully keep his fouls down this season.

    Great to see the team coming together nicely, and returning nearly all our players will go leaps and bounds.

    And that's the bottom line!!!! HAHA

  2. Nit bound, retreads, Kruger can't recruit, wait till next year... and all the other B.S. they say

    Now that we have that out of the way Sufferin and Hoops have nothing else to post. Beat you to it ha ha ha!

  3. You forgot to add:

    "And anyone who feels differently is and ANTI-UNLV rat traitor and wants us to FAIL."

  4. the one thing these two guys height simply cant replace is the fact that shaw was the teams best 3 point shooter last season and that will be hard to replace because we all know there where times a 3 was very very hard to come by

  5. CBI. :)

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  7. Nice piece Greene. Love to get these articles during the off season.

  8. Thanks for the update Ryan, us die-hards needed the rebel fix...
    I would disagree about the 3 point shooting. There's Wallace... and that's about it. There's no one else that is a real consistent threat. I think Hawkins could be one, and Stanback should be one, but neither are there quite yet.

  9. It'll be interesting to see how well Lopez shoots the three. The article says "he can score from anywhere out to 3-point range." We will miss Matt's 3-point range this year, but as far as matchups go, I'm not sure his ability to pull a big guy out of the paint will show up much outside of against Lerch at Utah. If Lopez and QT have developed and continue to develop like we expect them to, we might actually have an inside game.

  10. Is it just me, or did Airlea Avila (above) add more to this story than Sufferin has ever added to any one of these stories? :)

    Hey, Suff. Let it go buddy. Enjoy the run to the team's fourth NCAA appearance in 5 years with us.

    The 15-year drought is over! Runnin' Rebel basketball is fun again.

    We'll miss Matt's 3-pointers. Provided matchup problems for other 5s. However, hopefully the defense and rebounding will be an upgrade with Carlos and Thomas. Think they will come out rusty, but start clicking by conference (kind of like Chace this year).

    Have a great weekend, my friends. U-N-L-V!!!

  11. I am not sure who has been watching Lopez but he is not like a Chace Stanback. Stanback is a far more superior shooter than Carlos. Lopez will not be much of an offensive force his first couple of years and maybe never develop the scoring ability that Stanback posseses. However I do believe he will provide alot of flexibility in other areas. He is a good shot blocker, passes well(high low with QT or Brice could be nice)and does run very well. He gives us more athleticism which is something we need on the wing and inside. Not having Shaw will allow Carlos to get more minutes and learn on the fly which is exactly what he needs.

  12. Kruger should go after the Wear twins- they are leaving NC. Since they are from LA, perhaps they would rather play close to home. My guess is they go to USC, but these two guys would take care of our interior from 2011-2014.

  13. For those of you saying NIT and CBI...give me some substance on why you think this? I believe that you are dead wrong, but I am willing to hear you out. I would be willing to bet that this team has a better chace at the Sweet 16 than the NIT.

  14. Hey VegasNative57:

    Kruger Year Five: 5th Place
    Kruger Year Six: Tied for 3rd Place

    Expect more of the same.

    Things are not good.

    Go back to the day Kruger was hired. If you would have told people we would finish in 5th place in the MWC in year #5 and tied for 3rd in year #6, people would have rioted.

    The program is in complete freefall. All it takes is one CBI year and this thing will erupt. Just a matter of time until the retiree will be exposed.

  15. They have no substance, Rebel. We have NIT talent and NIT coaching, yet we made the NCAA Tourney 3 of the last 4 years and are on my experts Top 25 heading into this year. This NIT and CBI talk is coming from the same guy who has UNLV at Top 15 team in Football this year. Just have to take it with a big block of salt.

  16. You act like making the NCAA Tournament is some sort of validation that the program is going in the right direction, it isn't.

    Losing on the 1st weekend of the NCAA Tournament is grounds for termination at 99% of the real Basketball schools in this country. Lon Kruger is mid-level to mediocre coach. Making the NCAA Tournament and losing as soon as you get their only proves that we didn't belong in the 1st place.

    Lon Kruger has been at UNLV for six seasons. The 2006-07 team was the only decent team that he had here. The other five teams were NIT level and NIT quality. Sorry if that hurts your feelings but it is the truth. If we want more we have to demand more.

    I know you are happy with the level of the program. You probably don't know any better. You probably have never seen real talent and you believe that the garbage out on the court is actually NBA Level. You are clueless.

    I was here long before Lon Kruger and will be here long after Lon Kruger. It is just a matter of time until he is gone. Nobody will miss him or remember him. Losing in the 1st Round doesn't get anybody but you excited.

  17. I'm really liking the way the team is coming together and I'm sure that we will be stronger than last year. Tre is firmly established as the team leader so no questions about that issue which plagued us 2 years ago. Matty will be missed but he departure will give Carlos and Q more playing time and give us a greater inside presence along side Brice. Our guard play is solid and defense, our forte, is what wins championships. I feel that the Rebels are back on the national scene to stay.
    I don't know if the Rebs attempted to recruit the wear twins out of high school so why waste our time if they are pretty much slated to go to ucla? Yes, they would be a great get but we have to be realistic. If nc was too far from home, would they say that Las Vegas was still not close enough?
    Hey Ryan, let me just add, thank you for the article. I love everything scarlet and gray but Runnin' Rebel basketball talk is the tops!

  18. Sure succa...why not go back to the days of recruiting from reform schools.

  19. Suff must be stuck in the 90's. He probably listens to Paula Abdul, wears hammer pants and has a Brian Bosworth haircut. The championship was 20 years ago. Kruger has the best team since Tark and the most success as well. Last year was a REBUILDING year and they went to the tournament. The conference, especially at the top, is the best it has ever been. Saying that UNLV was 3rd place doesn't compare since the conference was better. Its like saying that Cal had one of the best teams in the country last year since it won the Pac-10.
    What happens when the Rebs win the conference next year and say make it to the S16 or better? what then?

  20. Why do you guys still get so riled up with Succotash? He is here to make people pissed. Ignore the attention whore already.

  21. The Rebels are going to be good this year if they play as a team

  22. Sufferin..."You act like making the NCAA Tournament is some sort of validation that the program is going in the right direction, it isn't."

    Well, you are using the CBI as a measure, so...nice try with that argument.

    "You probably have never seen real talent and you believe that the garbage out on the court is actually NBA Level. You are clueless."

    College success doesn't always traslate into NBA success...ala J.J. Duke

  23. Who gives a damn about making the tournament?! Why do people act like making it is some type of accomplishment. It should be expected if UNLV is supposed to be any type of basketball program. People who enjoy just making it are mediocre!

    Carlos Lopez has about as much strength as a new born and will be dominated down low. I am hoping Thomas can do something because if not, we will be out-rebounded for the 7th straight year.

    Free Shaw!!!!!

  24. I appologize but I just have to address miserable succkinstash here. I have a couple questions for you and lets just see if you are brave enough to answer the questions directly rather than spin it back to our current program. Question 1. If the program is so bad right now tell me when the last time the program was at an acceptable level for you? Question 2. What is your actual measuring stick for success? Question 3. Do you beleive that they should cheat or lie to the recruits just to win? Question 4. If you have been here all these years and you did actually approve of the program how do you feel about Tarkanians run at Fresno State?

  25. His skill set reminds me of Pau Gasol. Not that he will be as good as him I'm just saying his mid range, ball handling skills,long body, and blocks are what Pau has at a much better level.

  26. Ryan-
    Any update on Buckley's academic situation? If he didn't qualify, would that leave us with two unused scholarships this year, and five for next year?

  27. "the one thing these two guys height simply cant replace is the fact that shaw was the teams best 3 point shooter last season and that will be hard to replace because we all know there where times a 3 was very very hard to come by"

    The one thing our 3pt shooting was missing last year, was an inside presence to open up the outside shooting.....if you know basketball, you have to know the need to have an inside game in order for the outside game to work.

  28. blueandgold ... nothing yet ...

  29. "You act like making the NCAA Tournament is some sort of validation that the program is going in the right direction, it isn't." -Sufferin

    That's ironic because you ALWAYS complain that we'll be in the NIT or the CBI. Apparently beating expectations isn't good enough for the UNLV Hypocrite.

    You should put test your supreme basketball knowledge and coach a junior team out here. If you're so right about everything basketball you'll surely move up quickly!

    Oh, and for what it's worth "anyone who feels differently is and ANTI-UNLV rat traitor and wants us to FAIL."

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  31. UNLV looking at Emmanuel Negedu


    Interesting with the medical issue but was #23 overall and #8 PF in 2008.

    Ryan hear anything about this?

  32. Lopez can score from anywhere out to 3pt range?
    Really? I didn't see him score a whole lot in practise!

  33. Is it me, LV- or does it seem like NM just follows Kruger around and try and recruit every player UNLV recruits?

  34. Stanback is a walking turnover. He doesn't rebound, and occassionally gets hot shooting; but his streaky shooting doesn't compensate for his overwhelming turnovers, poor decisions, lack of rebounding, and non-remarkable defense.
    To mention Stanback's name with Willis in the same sentence is just so disrespectful of Willis.
    How many balls to Chace throw away in the MW Tourney and the NCAA's? Lots.

  35. http://www.themwc.com/sports/m-baskbl/sp...

    This link leads to the article that shows Chace Stanback making 3rd-team all conference and the Mountain West Conference All-Defensive Team.

    Ya, he sucks.

  36. TheRealTruth, Chace Stanback is UNLV's leader in rebounding, steals and shot blocking this year. He averages 1.7 turnovers per game. Stanback plays defense. Maybe you're talking about Massamba, Shaw and Santee who couldn't rebound and block shots.

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  38. Prediction: Massamba will be first team MWC his senior year. The young man will be a beast. Hopefully, he is spending the offseason with his brothers again who are opening his eyes to his own potential. Our biggest flaw is our lack of an inside-out game. Work the ball in, kick it out, the shots will fall. Massamba is the key! Tre is the leader and our go to. Marshall will take the keys when Tre graduates. But Massamba is the key. Los and QT behind him. Work it in, kick it out. Go Rebels!

  39. Any team that makes the NCAA tournament is a good team.

    UNLV has a good basketball team.
    Lon Kruger is a good basketball coach.

    End of debate.

  40. I must say, this article is somewhat encouraging, especially with Lopez gaining strength and muscle. To me, UNLV's lack of size and rebounding is still the most worrying aspect of the team.