Rebels focus on fans at Scarlet & Gray Showcase

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Steve Marcus

Cheickna Dembele (11), right, defends against Brandon McCoy (44) during the UNLV basketball Scarlet & Gray Showcase at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017.

2017 Scarlet & Gray Showcase

Tervell Beck (14) competes in a dunk contest during the UNLV basketball Scarlet & Gray Showcase at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. STEVE MARCUS Launch slideshow »

The 2017-18 Runnin’ Rebels took the court at the Thomas & Mack Center for the first time on Wednesday, and they even played a short intrasquad scrimmage as part of the Scarlet & Gray Showcase. But the event wasn’t really about basketball.

Given everything the UNLV program has been through in the last few years, this was more about rebuilding a relationship with the fan base. And the first-look Showcase was a good start, as a modest crowd of about a thousand people came out to see Marvin Menzies’ rebuilt squad dunk, dance and entertain. And for the most part, they delivered.

Freshman sensation Brandon McCoy garnered the loudest response from the fans when he was introduced, and he gave them even more to cheer about when he hammered home a two-handed dunk during the six-minute scrimmage.

Senior guard Jovan Mooring drew some oohs and ahhs by drilling back-to-back 3-pointers, including one from his customary spot four feet beyond the arc.

And freshman forward Tervell Beck put an exclamation point on the evening by winning the slam dunk contest with a one-handed tomahawk:

The underlying message behind the event was that the Rebels are back. Afterward, McCoy said he can sense the excitement in the air as the season draws closer.

“I feel the atmosphere,” McCoy said. “It’s pretty fun just coming out here and playing with the guys on something other than the Mendenhall [court] for once. It’s just getting out here and showing the fans what’s going to come this season and show them a lot of fun stuff.”

Junior forward Shakur Juiston, a transfer from junior college, said he was impressed by the fan turnout.

“All the fans that were here today, I strongly appreciate them coming out and showing their support,” Juiston said. “It just shows me that I need to go 100 percent harder. Even though I thought I was going hard before, I need to go harder for these fans.”

It was Juiston’s first experience at the Thomas & Mack Center, and the moment wasn’t lost on him. He said he was excited to play on the same court as former Rebels greats like Larry Johnson and Stacey Augmon.

“You walk on the same floor in the same arena they played in, it’s just a feeling,” Juiston said. “It’s like a little kid’s dream.”

After his Showcase experience, McCoy said he was ready for the season to start.

"I’m so excited,” McCoy said. “I sit at home sometimes, lying in my bed just thinking about the season. It’s a great group of guys, and we’ve been working so hard this summer. I feel like it’s going to be something special.”

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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