Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2009 | 2:05 a.m.
UNLV guard Justin Hawkins has been practicing as a college player for less than three weeks. He’s still feeling out the athleticism and pace of big-time college basketball and how he’ll fit in at UNLV.
“I’m still just a freshman with the team,” he said.
But as Hawkins – “J-Hawk” to his teammates – showed in 20 minutes of scrimmages Tuesday, he’s coming along just fine.
In four five-minute scrimmages, with a manager running the scoreboard and controlled by three officials, Hawkins unofficially led the Rebels with 16 points.
Third-year sophomore forward Chace Stanback, on the mend from a tweaked left ankle, was the only other player in double figures in scoring, with 10.
After a slow start, Hawkins warmed up by hitting four of his final six shots, including three 3-pointers.
“They say, ‘Just be aggressive, do what you do … what got you here. We all know you can play. Show everyone else you know how to play.’ ”
UNLV coach Lon Kruger and his staff also have boosted Hawkins.
“They say, ‘Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Just play with confidence, that little swagger you had in high school. Transfer that to here to make the team better,’ Hawkins said. “ … I have to find what my role is, but once games start I’ll find it.”
Hawkins found it Tuesday.
A closer look at the scrimmages:
Game 1 – Black 11, White 10
Fellow rookie guard Anthony Marshall started the day’s scoring on the Black’s first possession with a strong move through the left lane that he finished inside.
Bellfield tipped in his own miss to even it, then the sides exchanged two-point single free throws.
Darris Santee sank a jumper and Bellfield scored inside to give the White an 8-4 edge, but Hawkins ignited a rally to the victory for the Black.
He hit a 3-point shot from the right corner, and Matt Shaw hit one of those special two-point free throws when he got fouled down low after Wallace dumped it down to him.
Stanback provided the game winner when he sliced in for a dunk – nothing too forceful, but enough to offer a signal to UNLV fans that he’s quickly returning to form.
Game 2 – White 13, Black 10
With an 8-5 lead, the White made it 13-8 when Willis hit a 3-pointer from the left side and Steve “Chopper” Jones canned a free throw.
That pad included two jumpers by Santee, who went 3-for-4 from the field on the day and has shot with consistency in each of the several scrimmages that Kruger has staged inside the Cox Pavilion practice gym.
In between the points from Willis and Jones, Stanback nailed a pull-up 3-pointer. But the White had too much of a lead.
Still, the Black finished in style when Marshall threw a splendid bounce pass to Shaw, who had a step on Willis, for a back-door layup.
Game 3 – White 9, Black 4
Hawkins provided some quick energy with a 3-pointer from the right side for the winners, after Jones missed a 3-point shot of his own on the game’s opening possession.
Two possessions later, Hawkins finished in transition on the right side for a 5-0 advantage.
The Black squad kept spinning its wheels, and Wallace darted in for another close shot in transition to boost the White lead to 11-4. Game over.
Game 4 – Black 13, White 10
Hawkins hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to cut the White deficit to 9-7, and he sank another one with 45 seconds left for the game’s final points.
With a chance to pump the Black lead to five, Willis went to the free-throw line but Carlos Lopez was whistled for his second lane violation of the game.
Not too pleased, Willis tried putting the ball in the hoop off a bounce as everyone started to retreat to the other end. Didn’t work. Stanback’s 3-point attempt to tie it in the final seconds from the right side rattled the rim then popped out.
For Hawkins, the several times the Rebels have scrimmaged have served as solid tune-ups for Saturday, when UNLV will run in a closed-door scrimmage at Long Beach State.
The 49ers recently defeated San Diego by a point in a 48-minute private scrimmage.
That Hawkins led everyone in shot attempts Tuesday reflected his teammates’ confidence.
“It’s been a big step, but I’ve gotten used to it,” Hawkins said. “Now, it’s just consistency. I might have two good or great days of practice, but I’ll come back with two OK or bad practices. Consistency is a big thing for me.
“Doing the little things right all the time is a big thing in coach’s eyes, and a big thing for me.”
Which is why Tuesday was so big for Justin Hawkins.