Jovan Mooring wants to lead UNLV to a season to remember

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Steve Marcus

Jovan Mooring, right, (30) takes the ball past Tervell Beck (14) 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 »

Jovan Mooring has vivid memories from last season.

Then a junior guard, Mooring remembers exactly how he was feeling on Feb. 8, when UNLV traveled to UNR and lost in humiliating fashion, 104-77. And he remembers the atmosphere in the locker room on March 8, after the Rebels blew a 21-point lead to San Diego State and were eliminated from the Mountain West tournament. In fact, Mooring spent the offseason embracing the memories of those games — and UNLV’s other 19 losses.

They’re not the kind of moments in time you’d want to commemorate in a photo album or anything, but Mooring doesn’t want to forget what he went through last season, when he led an undermanned UNLV team through a difficult 11-21 campaign. So he spent the offseason using those defeats as motivation.

Speaking at Mountain West media day on Wednesday, Mooring made it clear that he’s not looking to forget the past.

“Me personally, I take last year very personal,” Mooring said. “I’m coming into this season with a chip on my shoulder. I haven’t forgotten about one team we lost against. I won’t allow that to affect the progression that we have for this current team, but me personally, yeah, I have a goal to beat San Diego State, to beat Reno. I want to beat those guys.”

Mooring began last season as a question mark — a deep-depth shooting guard from a Division II junior college with virtually no scouting report to speak of. But by the end of the year, he had worked his way to the top of the depth chart, serving as UNLV’s No. 1 option and unquestioned go-to guy.

The 6-foot-2 Chicago native led the Rebels in scoring (12.6 points per game), assists (4.0), 3-pointers (58 makes), 3-point accuracy (37.2 percent) and free-throw attempts (145). But he could only carry UNLV to a program-low 11 wins.

The coaching staff attacked the recruiting trail and added talent around Mooring in the offseason, and he is making it his mission to bring this new and improved roster together as a winning team.

Mooring was tossed into the deep end last year, but he credits Marvin Menzies and the rest of the coaching staff with teaching him how to be a productive Division I player. Now he’s passing that knowledge on to his younger teammates. Serving as a coach on the floor is a new role for Mooring, but he’s getting the hang of it.

Mooring said he is still finding his voice as a team leader, and that one of the most important lessons he’s learned is how the same message can have a different impact when it’s coming from a player as well as the coaches.

“When you have eight new guys, you have to talk to them differently in certain different ways,” Mooring said. “Especially when you’re still learning yourself. I may be a senior, but coach still teaches me each and every day. And I know that coach is going to help those guys, but I also have to help those guys, because players respond different to each other than they do the coaches. It’s just natural. It’s only so much a coach can tell a player, but once you start hearing it from the guys around you, that’s when you really start to take it in, because you’re around those guys much more off the court than you are around the coaches.”

With a couple weeks of preseason practice in the books, Mooring said he likes the way the team is coming together. His style of leadership is honest and direct, and though that can sometimes be difficult for his teammates to hear, he believes that’s the best way to reach them.

“I think they’re doing a pretty good job,” Mooring said. “We go back and forth all the time. That’s with any team. Some guys, they’re not in the mood and they react, but at the end of the day, nothing is personal. When you’re teaching someone something, you just take it and deal with it.”

Mooring remembers how far he came last season, and he wants his talented young teammates to make similar strides. If they do, Mooring and the Rebels can erase some of last season’s bad memories and replace them with pleasant ones.

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

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