Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018 | 2 a.m.
The first day of college basketball practice is now less than four weeks away, and though we haven’t seen the 2018-19 Runnin’ Rebels in action yet, we have enough information to begin speculating as to what the team will look like this season.
Brandon McCoy and Anthony Smith are gone, as is last year’s starting backcourt of Jordan Johnson and Jovan Mooring. In their place UNLV has brought in a talented four-man freshman class, as well as an experienced transfer to take over as the floor general. After reviewing all the newcomers in-depth — see our scouting reports on Bryce Hamilton, Trey Woodbury, Joel Ntambwe, Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and Noah Robotham — now seems like a good time for another roster projection.
The starting lineup remains unchanged from the first projection, which was done shortly after the end of last season, but the bench has been shuffled and Tchamwa Tchatchoua has been included (he committed in May).
Here's our latest lineup projection:
Point guard: Noah Robotham, senior
UNLV needs shooting and Robotham should provide it at the point guard position. He is a career 38.5-percent 3-point shooter and is confident firing on the catch or off the dribble. In addition to his accuracy, he’ll be a defensive upgrade over Jordan Johnson just by virtue of his size and length (6-foot-1). Coaches rave about Robotham’s leadership.
Shooting guard: Amauri Hardy, sophomore
Hardy has just enough size to play as a shooting guard, and though he’s ceding point-guard duties to Robotham in this scenario, he’ll still have plenty of opportunities to work as the primary ball-handler. He needs to become a better outside shooter (29.3 percent from 3-point range last year), but he’ll be the Rebels’ best slasher off the dribble. Hardy made just 55.1 percent of his attempts around the rim as a freshman, but he should improve as a finisher in Year 2.
Small forward: Bryce Hamilton, freshman
In this lineup, Hamilton slots in as a third guard, providing additional ball-handling and a volume-scoring mentality. Kris Clyburn is a senior and could go into preseason with the inside track on this spot, but Hamilton is a vastly more talented offensive player. Though he’s a freshman, he could be serving as the No. 1 option by the end of the season.
Power forward: Tervell Beck, sophomore
Beck closed his freshman season strong (7.3 points per game, 1.119 points per possession) and looks like he can be a premier interior scorer. He played most of his minutes at small forward last year, but at a burly 6-foot-7, his collegiate future is probably at the 4. This makes for a bit of an awkward fit, as UNLV’s best player is also a natural power forward.
Center: Shakur Juiston, senior
Can Juiston play center? If he can, UNLV will be able to put its five best overall players on the court at the same time. Juiston averaged 14.6 points per game last season and should be able to provide even more offense this season without Brandon McCoy soaking up post touches. Defensively he is not a rim protector, but the efficiency of a Beck-Juiston frontcourt could make up for that at the other end of the floor.
Guard: Kris Clyburn, senior
Clyburn could thrive in a reserve role, but he’ll have to shoot willingly (and accurately) in order to keep his spot in the pecking order. The freshmen wings (Hamilton, Trey Woodbury, Joel Ntambwe) will all push Clyburn.
Center: Mbacke Diong, sophomore
If Juiston starts at center, Diong will play a prominent role as a defensive-minded big off the bench. He posted an intriguing block rate of 6.8 percent and was the team’s leader in defensive rating (97.3). His propensity for fouling (8.6 per 40 minutes) might make him more suited to coming off the bench, at least for one more season.
Guard: Trey Woodbury, freshman
Woodbury is a sharpshooter who should fit into the Rebels’ offense seamlessly. It may take him some time to settle in defensively, but he is a smart player who should figure be able to figure out how to survive on that end.
Forward: Joel Ntambwe, freshman
Ntambwe is a skilled ball-handler and passer, especially for his size. At 6-foot-9, he can come off the bench and play multiple positions depending on the matchup. If he develops a reliable outside shot he could rocket up the depth chart.
Center: Cheickna Dembele, junior
Diong will be the first big off the bench, but on nights when he gets into foul trouble Demebele should be able to provide competent minutes.
Center: Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, freshman
The coaching staff raves about Tchatchoua Tchamwa’s athleticism, but his skills are in need of development before he’ll be ready for playing time.
Guard: Jay Green, sophomore
Green only got into 15 games as a freshman and played 62 minutes total. Then the Rebels brought in a guard-heavy recruiting class. Playing time will be emergency-only.
Forward: Ben Coupet, sophomore
Coupet is a holdover from Menzies’ first recruiting class; he didn’t look like a promising prospect before taking a redshirt season in 2017-18.
Forward: Djordjije Slijivancanin, sophomore
There will be minutes available for true centers, and Slijivancanin measures in at 6-foot-10. But he’s a practice player and strictly a deep-depth option.