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Notebook: UNLV big men showing tenacity on the glass

Quintrell Thomas pushing others in effort to narrow rebounding margin

UNLV FirstLook 2010

UNLV guard Tre'Von Willis signs a young fan's shirt after their FirstLook scrimmage Friday, October 15, 2010. Launch slideshow »

UNLV FirstLook Dunk Demonstration

UNLV guard Karam Mashour follows through during a dunking demonstration before their First Look scrimmage Friday, October 15, 2010. Launch slideshow »

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There were signs on Friday night during a 20-minute scrimmage at UNLV's annual FirstLook event that there might be a solution or two in place to last season's rebounding woes.

About 12 hours later, when the Rebels ran their first official practice of the 2010-11 season, the signs were even more prevalent.

Highlighting the high-energy workout at the Cox Pavilion were numerous battles under the basket for boards.

The most memorable moment came when sophomore Kansas transfer Quintrell Thomas tangled with sophomore UCLA transfer Mike Moser, with neither big man refusing to let go of the ball. The two then went to the ground in a fashion reminiscent of pro wrestling to settle the score. Thomas yanked the ball away and the two were helped up from the friendly tussle.

It's not the type of struggle that UNLV coach Lon Kruger and his staff will hurry to jump in and break up, either.

"I'd be really disappointed if our rebounding isn't improved a lot," Kruger said afterward. "Obviously, it wasn't very good last year, and we need to improve that. This group understands that. Plus, we're bigger, stronger and more capable."

Moser will sit this season out per NCAA transfer rules, but Thomas is clearly chomping at the bit after sitting out the 2009-10 campaign. He snatched several impressive rebounds on both ends during Friday's scrimmage and on the practice floor is trying to bring the same tenacity out of his fellow big men.

Of the Rebels' trio of centers from a year ago, only junior Brice Massamba remains. Joining Thomas in the fresh-blood department is 6-foot-11 Carlos Lopez, who redshirted a year ago while adding some more bulk to his frame.

Massamba looks improved, but it's Thomas who is making the most noise out of the gates, as he brings the instinctive rebounding presence UNLV sorely needed last season while getting wounded inside against the likes of Utah and San Diego State.

"It feels like you're playing in a game," Lopez said of this season's interior competition. "You're going against guys who are really good and will only make you better."

Wallace getting accustomed to spectating

Kendall Wallace's life was derailed in areas outside of just basketball when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last month.

His four-year plan within the UNLV hoops program will now be pushed to five, as he'll return for a final season in 2011-12. On top of that, he'll graduate this summer, meaning he's also looking for a master's program to pursue.

Last season, he averaged 6.9 points per game and hit a team-high 61 3-pointers in a reserve role.

Now, he's getting used to his new role within the team.

"You don't ever want it to be like this, but you can't really do anything about it, and you've got to roll with the punches, be positive," he said. "It's a tough thing to deal with. It's a long process to deal with, but you've got to be patient and work hard."

Wallace is in the infant stages of his rehabilitation following surgery.

He'll shed the bulky black knee brace in a week and start upping his work with head trainer Dave Tomchek, introducing weight-lifting exercises into the equation.

Emptying Saturday's notebook

• Senior guard Tre'Von Willis, who did not participate in Friday's scrimmage, was again watching from the sidelines on Saturday. It has nothing to do with his impending 3-game suspension to start the season. The Fresno, Calif., native is still sore following minor off-season knee surgery.

• Junior forward Chace Stanback looks noticeably bigger this season, having clearly hit the weight room hard in the summer months. He displayed some of that strength while providing the day's top highlight, throwing down a two-handed jam off of a slash to the bucket from the left corner.

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  1. Ryan, thanks for the great work covering my Rebels. The Sun is now my first look to find Runnin' Rebel news.

    I was wondering, however, about the status of Henry Buckley. Is he eligible for this season or will he be an academic redshirt? I have heard absolutely nothing about his status since the last update "waiting to be cleared academically".

    Thanks and again, great job.

  2. Been waiting for the season since last March! Ignore the offseason issues as much as you can because I think this team will be solid. Like many of you I've been on this train dating back to pre-Gilliiam days.
    Wallace and Shaw being lost might actually create an interesting style for the Rebs, maybe thriving in half court possessions or bringing that inside toughness we've been missing? Our front court is much improved and will cause match up problems for teams like SDSU & NM. Looking forward to seeing Lopez. Let's hope Marshall continues to grow and we get the same solid efforts from the rest of the team.
    Moser will be such an addition next year. I remember talking to his trainer/conditioning coach when he was choosing schools...I told him to consider LV...I also suggested Fresno State (sorry!) - glad he's a Reb.

    Go Rebels!

  3. I cant wait for the season to begin!!!! Go Runnin Rebels!!!

  4. Would love to see the Rebels try to make games more full court. Losing Wallace and Shaw obviously hurts when the game is half court because of their shooting. Think Quintrell's rebounding and the athleticism that Carlos brings, more up tempo is a great option. I think we all would like to see the Runnin' Rebels again. Believe we only scored in the 80's 6 times and topped 90 only against Pitt St. Would love to see us average in the 80's. BTW anyone see that Deshawn Mitchell left Rider and Lawrence no longer plays for Idaho?

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  6. Ryan, Is Stanback practicing at the 3 (small forward) or at the 4 (power forward)? If it is the former, then Kruger has abandoned "small ball" in favor of playing 2 "bigs"... That would make an interesting story.

  7. I saw the boys in first look and we are going to be set for years to come. Most of our best players are underclassmen

  8. Daniel, so far it looks like he'll primarily be at the 4, with Jasper running at the 3 as a 'point forward' type. I could also see some potential lineups with Stanback-Lopez and Massamba/Thomas on the floor at the same time, which would be interesting.

    liljoe, the earliest Henry will be on campus -- if at all -- will be the spring semester. The plan was for him to redshirt this year no matter what, so I'd imagine that won't change if he's here in a few months.

  9. I think it's nuts that Jasper isn't running the point. I like Oscar a lot, but at 6'6" our lineup would be huge (and quick) if Jasper was at the point. I'd move Marshall--our super slasher--to the three spot.

    And whoever our meanest center is.

    You want a long rangy team that rebounds and plays D? Moving 6'6" Jasper to the point transforms the lineup into exactly that. OB would be a terrific spark off the bench.

  10. No way Doc. Oscar is the best point we have. He can shoot 15 footers, and drive in pretty well. His assist-to-turnover ration is a stat so good, to take him out would be ridiculous. Jasper is good, don't get me wrong, but at point, Oscar's ball handling is better. Jasper's slashing is great off a pass as well, while spreading out the defense.

    There is so much talent this year. Deeper than last year even, and I think we really are going to wear out a lot of teams with subbing players in and out.

  11. Starters and subs:

    Bellfield -> Marshall
    Tre -> Hawkins
    Jasper -> Mashour
    Stanback -> Lopez
    Thomas -> Massamba

  12. Sofaking, that's one way to view it. A lot of people don't want to relegate Oscar as a backup point. And those are certainly valid reasons.

    I guess I'm putting more stock on the added size, mismatches it would create, better team rebounding and defense, etc. I like the way Jasper pushes the ball up court too.

    Kruger won't run Jasper at the PG anytime anyway, so it's a moot point. He's capable to play it, though. I love what Jasper did as a freshman at Kentucky in that role.

  13. @ sofa: I think Hawkins would be better at sub for PG than Marshall, I didn't like Marshall at that position last year because he had too many turnovers. For subs I like Hawkins at the 1, Mashour at the 2, and Marshall at the 3. Marshall has the wing span to defend at the 3. Tre's sub will not get a lot of PT, Marshall is too good to play 10 minutes a game if Hawkins subs for Bellfield.

  14. @ Devgpaul, I'll agree with that. The #1 & 2 spots have similar players, and I think a lot of them can all rotate in and out at the 1 and 2 spots. Hawkins did do a good job last year I think even though he was a freshman. I dunno about Marshall at the 3 though, I think he fits in well at the 1 or 2, and doesn't have the size (not just the length) for the 3.

  15. I like Marshall on the floor because he is a freak of an athlete who makes things happen.

    I agree, Devgpaul, Marshall gets indecisive at times and turns over the ball. I'd move him to another role, but I absolutely want Marshall on the floor. That's another reason why I say switching Jasper to point, and moving Marshall to the 3 spot where his athleticism can flourish.

    If Mike Umeh could play the 3 spot on our Swt 16 team, then Marshall is certainly capable of playing the 3 spot.

  16. Anyway you cut it we have some nice options and good depth. I would like to see:
    PG Bellfield - Jasper
    OG Willis - Hawkins
    SF Marshall - Mashour
    PF Stanback - Lopez
    C Massamba - Thomas
    I have not seen Thomas play so maybe he jumps ahead of Massamba but Brice really came on at the end of last year and became a viable offensive player in the post. This is something we badly need. I personally think that Jasper is better suited at point guard because that is his mindset. He is very unselfish(too much so)and defers to others when he is on the floor. Last year he seemed very hesitant to score. Love the intangibles he brings. Marshall needs to start and continue his rise. As a sophomore he has more upside than Derrick with UNLV and I think putting him back on the bench might stunt that a bit. Also do not think either Marshall or Hawkins are suited for the point. In a pinch yes but not a steady diet of that. No way Oscar should not be the starter and log heavy minutes there. He is an excellent college point guard. Love the debates. Can see alot of these scenarios playing out. Also love being picked fourth in the league. Nothing like sticking it to the "experts". Runnin' Rebels!

  17. The reason I put Thomas before Massamba, is that Massamba made extremely clumsy mistakes in a lot of games and commited unneeded fouls (and Kruger immediately pulled him out after those mistakes). The big games he struggled where Santee did really well. At the beginning of the season, he (Massamba) could hardly jump at all (see rebounds) but he did improve as the season went on, but I think Thomas is going to have a much better presence down low and be more active. I hear Massamba lost some more weight though, so he could be a lot more mobile than in the past. I hope he shows me I'm wrong, but to start, I still have Thomas over Brice for now.

  18. We have so many options this year! I think that if we stay healthy (and that is a BIG if) we are better than our sweet 16 year. Now I might be overconfident in our ability to be better on the bourds than last year, but I love our talent level. Then again, it is the time of year when fans of every team in the nation are saying that same thing!
    The Mountain West in general will be great this year, the top 4 will dominate and I think CO will steal a couple wins from the big teams. I'm excited to see how the conference does in the non-conference schedule.

  19. UNLV is better than last year, and yet, flying under the radar after all of the off season distractions. I personally think this will be good for them. With all the hype a team can get it can go to their head. I defiantly see them being contenders for the MWC regular season and tournament championships. Come on November 2nd! Let's get this season rolling already.