Saturday, Oct. 16, 2010 | 2:15 a.m.
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- UNLV picked fourth in MWC preseason hoops poll, Willis honored (10-12-2010)
- Unveiling the Sun’s 2010-11 MWC hoops preseason poll, honorees (10-6-2010)
- 2010-11 UNLV men's basketball schedule
- All Sun UNLV men's basketball coverage
Karam Mashour has been in the United States for less than a year, and chances are he didn't understand many of the encouraging words that fans had for him after Friday night's FirstLook event at the Thomas & Mack Center.
But, surely, the 6-foot-6 Israeli freshman swingman knew that he created quite a buzz to officially start the 2010-11 UNLV men's basketball season.
Now the golden question: Does he redshirt or play right away?
Rebels coach Lon Kruger has roughly a month of practices and two exhibition games to make up his mind, but the high-flying frosh made quite an opening argument in front of the 5,000 or so spectators who showed up to watch.
After overcoming some early jitters and a shot swatted a couple of rows into the stands by junior forward Chace Stanback, he gathered himself and scored 14 points in leading the Black squad to a 59-48 victory in a spirited 20-minute scrimmage.
"A real pleasant surprise," said fellow newcomer Mike Moser, who will sit out this season following his transfer from UCLA. "I don't think tonight he even showed half of the impact he's going to have on this season. I think he's really going to surprise people even more than he did tonight."
Mashour's rise into Rebel prominence has been swift and well-documented.
After blowing up on the summer prep circuit while playing with the Las Vegas Prospects, the former 18-U Israeli national team member became a hot recruiting target for several schools, including the likes of UCLA and Florida.
However, going to UNLV is allowing him to make a smoother transition in a new country, with his uncle, Las Vegas resident Jason Awad, and three cousins helping break the language barrier and move overall the process along.
On campus, he's made a strong impression with the coaching staff and his teammates, dubbed by everyone as a naturally intense worker, spending extra time in the gym and weight room without anyone urging him to do so.
Then came Friday night.
After Stanback rejected Mashour's soft baseline jumper, he backed the freshman down on the other end and hit a turnaround shot right over him.
Mashour was then eased into the offensive action with a couple of easy inside looks off of feeds from Derrick Jasper and Justin Hawkins, and by the third of four five-minute periods, he had blossomed.
His best offensive stretch came with back-to-back buckets in that third frame, first driving hard against 6-foot-11 Carlos Lopez and maintaining bodily control in mid-air for a lay-up, then executing an up-and-under move in traffic for two more points.
As the night wore on, he would grin in response to increasing encouragement from the crowd and teammates.
Next up, he'll have to maintain the process in practices, which officially begin on Saturday morning back at the Mack.
With senior guard Kendall Wallace suffering a season-ending right knee injury last month, minutes off of the bench are there for the taking.
Mashour took a nice first step in an effort to claim them.
"Just being his first time out here, he was a little nervous," Hawkins said. "We just told him to have fun. You saw him out there having fun with the lay-ups, dunks and all of it."
• Senior guard Tre'Von Willis, whose 3-game suspension to start the year will include the team's two exhibition contests, suited up but did not participate on Friday night. It had nothing to do with his suspension, but rather a bout with some soreness.
• Last season, by the time then-junior guard Derrick Jasper showed the aggressiveness the coaching staff wanted out of him, his season came to an abrupt halt thanks to a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee.
On Friday night, the Paso Robles, Calif., native showed that he's ready to pick up where he left off, attacking the basket consistently in finishing with eight points and a handful of assists.
It was an encouraging sign that Jasper may have cleared the mental hurdle that comes with having suffered two major injuries to the same knee during his college career.
"I was feeling pretty good when I got hurt, getting some things going, and I was being more aggressive," he said. "I need to be a lot more aggressive this year and that's what I'm working on in practice."
• Moser led all scorers with 15 points, including 10 points and a pair of 3-pointers in the final period.
"It was fun to get out here, knowing this was going to be my only chance to really get a good sweat in front of a crowd (this year)," he said.
• The White squad was led by 13 points from sophomore guard Anthony Marshall, who after coming on strong at the end of last season appeared to make major strides in filling out his 6-foot-3 frame in the weight room this summer.
Most encouraging, though, was a smooth 3-point make from Marshall on the left wing. He was just 1-of-23 from long range as a freshman and didn't attempt a trey in the season's final 12 games. The Mojave High product made it a point to work on his jumper this summer and restore the confidence in his shot.
• Sophomore guard Justin Hawkins did a strong job running the point for the Black team and, on top of scoring 10 points, was confident with the ball and in his attacks at the rim.
• The most anticipated debut for a UNLV newcomer was that of 6-foot-8 Kansas transfer Quintrell Thomas, who is expected to add some much-needed brawn for the Rebels in the front court.
He scored eight points, with three of those buckets coming on second-chance opportunities off of offensive caroms and he showed to be the Rebels' most instinctive rebounder.