November 17, 2018 Currently: 46° | Complete forecast

At preseason showcase, Runnin’ Rebels pledge to ‘play their hearts out’

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Steve Marcus

UNLV Rebel Amauri Hardy (3) dunks the ball as players warm up for an exhibition in the parking lot of Sam Boyd Stadium before the UNLV-Air Force football game Friday, Oct. 19, 2018.

Rebels Parking Lot Exhibition

Cheerleaders perform during an exhibition with the UNLV Runnin' Rebels and Lady Rebels in the parking lot of Sam Boyd Stadium before the UNLV-Air Force football game Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. Launch slideshow »

The 2018-19 Runnin' Rebels were introduced for the first time at a preseason showcase on Friday, and sophomore guard Amauri Hardy was among those who got swept up in the atmosphere.

The event, which was held outside Sam Boyd Stadium before the UNLV football game, featured player introductions, shooting contests and autograph sessions.

Hardy was all smiles afterward as he signed for fans and made a promise.

"We're going to bring energy to the Thomas & Mack," he said. "We're going to play our hearts out."

It was hard to argue with Hardy's optimism in the immediate aftermath of the showcase, which was all about building enthusiasm for the upcoming season. It started with the men's and women's basketball teams being introduced, followed by the coaching staffs. Head coach Marvin Menzies entered the court via limousine and addressed the crowd, emphasizing the character of this year's team.

Then it was Noah Robotham's turn to take the microphone, and the Las Vegas native talked about playing his senior year in his hometown. Robotham was followed by sophomore Cheickna Dembele, who told the fans why he chose UNLV two years ago. A lighthearted shooting contest featuring the Rebels and the Lady Rebels ate up the net 10 minutes, and then the players went into the crowd to sign autographs.

Freshman Trey Woodbury, another Las Vegas native, said it was special to put on the UNLV uniform for the first time.

“I’m really excited," Woodbury said. "It’s awesome just to get to play for the team I grew up watching, it’s a dream come true. This is the first time I’ve really gotten to interact with the fans and it’s a really cool experience.”

Hardy said the Rebels are making it a point to build a bond with the fan base, and that Friday's event was a good start to the season.

“I think this event was really good," Hardy said. "It allows us to gather in all the fans and show all the new faces we have on the team. It was great to see the fans out here. It gave me a good feeling inside.”

Strawther stands out

The most notable spectator in attendance at the showcase was Liberty swingman Julian Strawther. The high-scoring junior is UNLV's top recruiting target in the Class of 2020, but he may have been there for another reason — his big sister, Paris Strawther, is a forward for the Lady Rebels.

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

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