REBELS BASKETBALL:

UNLV hoops notebook: Handshake or not, Kruger, Pitino still friends

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UNLV coach Lon Kruger instructs his team during the second half against Louisville in Louisville, Ky.

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Louisville coach Rick Pitino directs his team during the first half in Louisville, Ky.

Back on the Map (12-31-08)

Despite playing without leading-scorer Wink Adams, the Rebels won their seventh straight, beating eighteenth-ranked Louisville 56-55 at Freedom Hall on Dec. 31, 2008. UNLV's defense held the Cardinals to 29.6 percent shooting from the floor.

UNLV's 2008 upset of Louisville

UNLV's Oscar Bellfield looks for help as he is trapped between Louisville defenders Edgar Sosa, left, and Earl Clark during the first half. Launch slideshow »

Some have made a big deal about Louisville coach Rick Pitino not shaking UNLV coach Lon Kruger’s hand after the Rebels’ 56-55 victory at Freedom Hall on New Year’s Eve.

Kruger isn’t one of them.

He confirmed that Pitino did not shake his hand, but that did not concern Kruger one bit.

“No big deal at all,” Kruger said. “I’ve known Rick a long time. That’s not a factor.”

UNLV freshman guard Oscar Bellfield had given his team the lead with 14.8 seconds remaining with a slick bank shot on the right side, over Louisville center Samardo Samuels’s extended right paw.

Terrence Williams missed a short banker that would have given the Cardinals a lead with about two seconds left.

UNLV big men Darris Santee and Joe Darger were defending Williams, but both of those Rebels did so with their hands straight up. Darger wound up controlling the loose rebound.

“He was talking to the officials, which is understandable,” Kruger said of Pitino.

Kruger confirmed that he and Pitino talked about extending the Louisville-UNLV series.

“We talked a little bit about that,” Kruger said. “Both are interested in doing that. It’s just a matter of working out the years where it works for both.”

On the recruiting trail

Don’t be surprised if the Rebels add Findlay College Prep forward Victor Rudd to their Class of 2009, which already includes guards Justin Hawkins and Anthony Marshall, and Findlay center Carlos Lopez.

A scholarship became available when center Beas Hamga recently bolted from the UNLV program.

The Rebels will have one scholarship for 2010, and it’s likely that Findlay power forward Godwin Okonji will be that one-man class.

Multiple sources confirmed the above scenarios.

So Kruger’s assistants have been focusing on UNLV’s 2011 recruiting class in recent months.

Assistant coach Lew Hill has spent time in Houston and Rhode Island to scout talent.

Thursday, he flew to Chicago – instead of coming home with the Rebels – to evaluate a slew of prospects at the Chicago Public Schools Holiday Classic, which started Friday.

Lucky 13

Senior walk-on Rob Ketchum had a thrill when he qualified, academically, to play after fall semester grades were posted.

He first donned his No. 13 UNLV uniform before the Rebels played Santa Clara on Dec. 17, so he was suited up for home victories over the Broncos, Arizona and Southern Utah.

Wrap the excitement from those three wins into one big celebration, and that’s how Ketchum spent New Year’s Eve with the team in Louisville.

He traveled for the first time as a Rebel to Kentucky.

”Man, I don’t think it could get much better than that,” he said after Friday’s practice. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I told the fellas after the game I was so proud to be a part of this organization.

“The whole trip, on New Year’s Eve, and being together and getting that victory was great.”

A 6-foot-5, 205-pound senior from Sacramento, Ketchum said the plane rides to and from Louisville were just extensions of the UNLV locker room.

“It was weird, a little tiring,” he said. “It went by fast. We had heart. We played like brothers. What a road trip. I’ll never forget it.”

Back practicing

Matt Shaw, who had the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee repaired over the summer, practiced Friday for the first time this season.

Shaw, who had been sprinting up and down an elevated tunnel inside the Thomas & Mack Center in recent weeks under the supervision of trainer Dave Tomchek, practiced with his right knee wrapped.

He didn’t do much. For a few minutes, he anchored the 2-3 zone defense of the black shirts, the Rebels’ third team that is comprised of walk-ons and transfers.

Mostly, he was on the sideline, cheering on his teammates and joking around with them.

“It was very good to see,” Kruger said. “I knew he was anxious to get back out and break a sweat, get back with the guys. When you’re injured and not able to practice, it’s hard to totally feel like you’re not isolated.

“Anyone who’s been injured knows that feeling. I know Matt feels good about getting back out there.”

More mending

Derrick Jasper, the transfer from Kentucky, has not been with the team for two weeks as he’s spent the holidays with his family in Paso Robles, Calif.

Jasper, who is recovering from micro-fracture knee surgery, is also on the mend but will increase his regimen soon.

Kruger said Jasper was expected back in Las Vegas on Friday night, so he’ll be at Saturday night’s game against New Mexico.

Finally

Many in Newark, N.J., were probably ecstatic to see DeShawn Mitchell, one of the top leapers to come out of the city, get into the first half Wednesday night against Louisville.

The Cardinals had misfired on their first 11 shots, but they finally recorded a basket 8 1/2 minutes into the game when Mitchell goal-tended a shot by Edgar Sosa.

Mitchell atoned for it, however, a minute later with a fastbreak slam dunk – his signature – to boost UNLV’s lead to 16-6.

No doubt that explosion of noise in Newark was from all the television sets tuned to ESPN2.

Mitchell had tallied only one basket in the Rebels’ previous 10 games, in which he played seven. He missed three other shots against Louisville but grabbed an offensive rebound.

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  1. Two points:

    First, Kruger is such a classy person and great basketball coach. Not only did the better team beat Louisville, but the better coach works for UNLV.

    Second, the quantity of coverage the LV Sun has been devoting to UNLV basketball has been outstanding. Even more impressive is the quality of it. The content in these articles are informative and fun to read. I have appreciated all of the updates from recruiting, to injury status reports (including Wink's abs), to bowling matchups, to poor sport losing coaches, etc. The video clips have been great and the blogs from Tark and others is wonderful. Thank you for the tremendous work. And Go Rebels!!

  2. You guys kick butt Rob. Great coverage of the team. Rudd will be a Rebel soon I think. I am excited to see him play in the Rebel Red!

  3. One other comment: I love the two photos above...one of Kruger looking like an actual coach, and the other of Pitino looking like a schizophrenic idiot.

  4. Wow, great comments all. Thanks!
    Where do I start? Doc, you are welcome. The demand is there, so expect blanket coverage from us. Our team is outstanding. And how about those videos? Christine and Alex are awesome -- I'll pass along your plaudits to them.
    Yeah, ry, I think Rudd is destined for UNLV. He is more coy about it then his guardian, Mr. Hankins, who unabashedly says UNLV is Vic's No. 1. Geographically and system-wise, Hankins says it's a no-brainer -- UNLV. Rudd wants to keep his ears open. Understandable. We'll keep you posted on all the latest news re: Vic.
    Doc and Lenny, how about that Pitino foto? I don't know what to say. Looks like he's broken nearly all of his fingers in his life? We should have a caption contest, eh? Wild.
    Again, ksiff, you are welcome. Pipe in whenever you guys want about topics you'd like Tark to address. That feature is all about the fans. Well, then again, that's our aim with everything we do.
    Should be a heckuva next three months.
    Enjoy

  5. Hey, you guys will like this. I forgot it until yesterday. So much was going on in that Louisville game that this escaped me.
    When Pitino walks onto the Freedom Hall court before the game, they play the theme from "The Godfather." Kinda creepy, eh?

  6. I think it is obvious why Pitino didnt shake hands after the game.
    If your hands were in that bad of shape you wouldnt shake either. Too painful

  7. Ha ha ha ha ha. Bravo, david.

  8. I've been reading this site since football season and not posting, but also wanted to echo the same sentiment: the Sun coverage is the best by miles.

    Rob's writing has always been great - my favorite article was the one about Wink's mom some time ago (when she took his LOI to Church). Now it seems Rob has some quality help and the whole group does a fantastic job.

    Thanks from all us diehard Rebel fans!

  9. Wow. Thanks Rebbed! Glad you are posting. Zip me a topic or two for Tark if you'd like to get his comments on something and I'll make sure he addresses them in the next week or two, if you like. Have fun the rest of the season!

  10. Rob, how do you see Rudd fitting in with the Rebels? He seems more like a wing player based on his size, but he's filling a bigman's (Hamga's) spot on the roster. Does the staff have other plans on backfilling this need? Thanks.

  11. Pitino is a sore loser - always has been.
    He ranks only behind Bill Belichick in handshake sportsmanship.
    Call the wahhmbulance.

  12. Hey Texan, Rudd is super versatile. His finishing is absolutely electric. Stunning, a la Drexler. He also has a smooth 3-point shot and plays way sticky on defense. Losing Hamga doesn't necessarily mean the staff has to fill that exact position. Remember, Carlos Lopez (6-11, might sprout to 7-2) is in next season. Santee will be a senior, Massamba a sophomore and Matt Shaw, the power forward who had his ACL repaired over the summer, will have two seasons left. So the low post should be in good hands. Rudd is a jewel. We're working on a video package of him that you will enjoy. Thanks