Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Friday, Aug. 17, 2012 | 1:30 p.m.
Las Vegas Sun Sports Editor Ray Brewer and UNLV reporter Taylor Bern serenade you with information and analysis leading into the UNLV basketball team's highly-anticipated exhibition tour in Canada this week.
- North of the border: Get to know UNLV’s opponents on its Canadian tour
- The first-year successes were nice, but Rebels coach Rice says he’s still developing
- UNLV’s Carlos Lopez and Quintrell Thomas working hard to get on the court
- Roscoe Smith a picture of calm amid the uncertainty about his immediate eligibility
- Moser’s new position a focal point in Rebels’ first practice for upcoming Canada tour
- Rebels begin all-important practices for Canada exhibition tour on Saturday
- All UNLV in Canada coverage
“He thought I was playing games, messing with him,” Moser said.
In reality, no Rebel was to blame for the sudden 4 a.m. wake-up call they all received at the Ottawa Marriott on Friday morning. The fire alarm lasted for about 45 minutes, and the top three floors, which included several members of the UNLV traveling party, had to be evacuated.
Add that to the Rebels’ delayed flight into Montreal and their late-night arrival into Ottawa, and the result was a lot of red eyes during Friday morning’s practice at Immaculata High, which is located just southeast of downtown Ottawa.
Luckily, the Rebels didn’t have much to work on. With 10 days of practice over the last two weeks already in the books, UNLV coach Dave Rice just wanted to put his team through a few familiar paces.
“It was good to be able to come in, run around and get some of the jet lag out of us,” Rice said.
The rest of the day, Rice said, would be up to the Rebels to do what they pleased. There would be an optional lifting session with strength coach Jason Kabo and a team meeting at some point, but for the most part UNLV was let loose on downtown Ottawa.
For a few Rebels, this is not only their first time in Canada but their first trip out of the United States. Moser is one of those guys. He said he didn’t have much of a plan for his free time other than to walk around and see what happens.
Whatever he ends up doing, Moser likes the chance to do it as a team. In Las Vegas, the players have their own groups of friends and other responsibilities. But up here, it’s just 10 student-athletes in a foreign country, so wherever they go, they will likely go as a group.
“We haven’t done too much of the team hanging out, all of us,” Moser said. “We’re going to enjoy this experience together.”
Rice has a little bit clearer idea of what he’s going to do. A self-proclaimed history buff, Rice said he and his wife, Mindy, would seek out locales related to the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. Players are unlikely to follow him on that one, but as long as they get out on the town, Rice said, they could see the positive impact down the line.
“It’s a great opportunity for guys to go spend time with each other and bond,” Rice said. “It’s all part of the process of building a team.”
That process continues Saturday with the first of four games on this exhibition tour. UNLV opens at Carleton University, which has won eight of the last 10 Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) titles.
The Rebels aren’t spending much time studying their opponents.
“Just kind of going out there naked, not knowing exactly what they can do,” Moser said.
Rice said he knows these teams have been practicing together and will present a challenge. However, UNLV is more focused on itself, most importantly trying out different lineups and working in freshmen like Morant.
Another guy who hadn’t been out of the United States before Thursday, Morant said he hopes to get as much playing time as possible so he can get a feel for the college game and develop some chemistry with his teammates. And if he can put on a little bit of a show with an especially nice one-handed dunk while he’s on the court, well, that’s OK, too.
“They’re going to remember us from what we do out there,” Morant said.
Whatever impressions they leave on the Canadians they either play or play in front of, the Rebels will remember these days spent in tiny gyms and unfamiliar streets long after they return to Las Vegas. Just how this trip will be thought of, though, is still to be determined.
A 4 a.m. fire alarm just a few hours into the trip looks like an ominous beginning. Another view is that it’s representative of the many distractions UNLV will encounter, and overcome, this season.
As they wander through Ottawa and then Montreal, the Rebels aren’t worried about those grand ideas. Together they’re in search of good games, good times and, if they can, a good night’s sleep.