Published Thursday, Nov. 12, 2009 | 5:49 p.m.
Updated Thursday, Nov. 12, 2009 | 6:24 p.m.
Two weeks in a hospital bed near his home in Lajas, Puerto Rico, over the summer zapped UNLV freshman power forward Carlos Lopez of considerable energy and strength.
That’s a main reason why he was fighting an uphill battle the moment he arrived on campus and when official basketball practice started about a month ago.
After Thursday’s practice – which was one of his best – inside the Thomas & Mack Center, Lopez said redshirting this season is the best move for him.
He talked it over with his mother, grandmother, and UNLV coach Lon Kruger and his staff, and he said everyone agreed that taking the next year to properly prepare for college basketball is the correct course.
“And I love Las Vegas, UNLV, the basketball program ... I’m not going anywhere," Lopez said. "I’m looking forward to getting ready to play next year and to the rest of my future.”
Lopez, 19, did not play in the Rebels’ exhibition game Tuesday night against Washburn, and he was not available after Wednesday’s practice because he had to meet with an academic advisor and lift weights.
He contracted a stomach virus with the Puerto Rican junior national team when it was competing in a July tournament in France.
He finally saw a doctor, but he said the conversation attempts were comical; Lopez doesn’t speak French, and neither the doctor nor his assistants knew any English or Spanish.
On the plane ride home to Puerto Rico, he vomited. He was sick for the duration of the flight. Once the plane landed, medical personnel took him straight to a hospital.
When UNLV started practicing, the 6-foot-11 power forward told the Sun he lost nearly 30 pounds in the ordeal. Rebels coach Lon Kruger said it was more like a dozen. He’s now just under 210.
No matter the figure, Lopez, who helped Findlay College Prep win an ESPN national championship last season and was a Pilot for three years, the episode hindered his transition to Division-I basketball.
“I see it as an opportunity to become a better player,” Lopez said, “and I think it’s a chance to help my team the best way I can.”
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