UNLV BASKETBALL:

UNLV’s Justin Hawkins getting his swagger back

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Justin M. Bowen

UNLV freshman Justin Hawkins shoots free throws during UNLV basketball practice at the Cox Pavilion Monday.

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UNLV freshman Justin Hawkins defends Darris Santee during UNLV basketball practice at the Cox Pavilion Monday.

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.

“I’m starting to feel more comfortable with the team,” said the Los Angeles native. “’Tre’ (Tre’Von Willis), Oscar (Bellfield) and Kendall (Wallace) are making me feel welcomed.

“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.

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  1. I think this kid is going to be a force to be reckoned with. Maybe not this year per se, but by his junior year, I think he will be the leader at UNLV (of course, unless there is a transfer).

  2. so, you are spot on ... Justin is very level-headed and bright, very deep -- which we'll explore within the next week. He has a lot going on and you'll find him as interesting as he is talented on the hoops court. You'll have fun watching him grow into a role and, as you said, ultimately become a leader. This group of freshmen, with A Marshall and C Lopez, is pretty special...

  3. Rob, with the exception of Santee (who seems to be playing well), how are UNLV's other bigs coming along in practice? I really feel like their progress will be crucial to our success this season.

  4. sofaking, j-hawk's jr year will be Stanback and O's sr year..so i think those two will be the leaders..but lets not look that far ahead..thats how last season happened..everyone was talkin about tre and beas and how good they'll be during Wink's jr year..which really hurt them that next season..

    talkin about Beas..hes gotta be one of the biggest busts in unlv history if not the biggest

  5. why does the RJ run stories about the same players on the same day the sun does? regardless the rj's coverage of the good guys is pathetic compared to the handsome duo of rob and ryan.

  6. With all due respect, Beas Hamga makes Brett Vroman look like Wilt Chamberlain.

  7. I'm not sure Hamga was truly a bust. I think the kid got caught up in the 5-star recruit talk and the people around him pumping that in his head. I don't think he played long enough to be considered a bust. Had he stuck it out and was riding pine in his jr year, then the bust talk would be more warranted.

  8. This year has such a young squad compared to previous, I can't get my hopes up like I have in the past along with other unnamed sports. Once the season starts, I'll judge, but right now, it's all speculation. I only hope for the best and I think this squad has an extreme amount of talent. Can't wait! Comon Nov. 14th!

  9. big_john,
    yea i know where you are coming from with that..but when the ball was passed to Beas he acted like it was a hot potato or just didnt know what to do with it. i guess we'll have to judge him by how he plays at vanderbilt(if thats right).
    and rob, does Beas have to sit out another year to play at vandy or can he play this season?? not like i care, just wondering

  10. Beas Etienne might be signing with the Lobos of New Mexico. Their fans are extremely excited about the possibilities.

  11. southern, thanks for the inquiry ... Carlos has a ways to go, but it's understandable since he lost that 30 pounds after picking up a stomach bug at a tourney in France in July. However, his instincts, if not his brawn, are carrying him. He has some nifty moves, isn't afraid to put it on the floor a couple of times (sometimes detrimental) to get himself free and he has a superb touch around the rim, especially with reverses. He attacked the rim without hesitation last season at Findlay, so he needs to work to get to that level...
    Massamba looks fantastic, as we have documented. He's at 240, more than 30 less than a year ago. He is still finding his way. He and Lopez have mostly been playing together, so that has helped. But asst coach Lew Hill is honing Brice on a daily basis.
    Santee has looked the best, especially face-up from 14 to 18 feet. That's his comfort zone. But he's the one most apt to dunk, and finishing with authority is a priority for him this season. He's had some decent boards in traffic, too.
    Matt Shaw, I think, will prove to be more valuable to this team than anyone thinks right now. It was pointed out yesterday that he might be a step slower than everyone else, but I'm not so sure I agree. Half a step? Heck, we're splitting hairs. All I know is he's hitting jumpers with confidence and plays with an edge that, hopefully for the Rebels and their fans, will be contagious.

  12. handsome duo? unlvrunrebs, you're too kind! :-) Uh, but thanks (I think) ... as for the other guys, not my business. We do what we do.

  13. gray, I heard about the name change ... don't know what to think of the well-traveled lad. What a tangled web, though. He's young, so hopefully it works out.
    sofaking, yeah, it does look like a young squad. But there's more experience there than most think, I believe. Chace is a third-year sophomore who at least has witnessed what it takes to get to a high level, in the F4 run with UCLA in '08.
    Jasper is a fourth-year junior ... Santee a sr, of course. Chopper is a senior with a lot of heart and even more drive. That guy has seven gears. Wallace is a junior who knows what it feels like to be a productive part of the machine. Bellfield will be nt and day from his rookie year.
    And Tre Willis has some time on the clock and is considerably more polished than he was a year ago.
    It will be an extremely interesting season, no doubt.

  14. Wishing Justin and UNLV basketball great success this season.

  15. i cant wait until the 10th..less than a week away..cause once that day comes..the season is underway to me..

    hopefully we will be seeing the 2+ rebels basketball articles per day once the season starts like last year?

  16. All I remember about Beas is him getting nailed in the head with a pass during last year's first look....that's when I started to wonder about the guy.

  17. Doing a great job on Rebel basketball reporting. JHawk is a great recruit for the Rebels although, it probably won't truly show until at least another year.

  18. adx, he and AMarshall and CLopez seem to be patient and stellar teammates who are finding their ways, and all are pressing the incumbents. Hawkins and Marshall might have challenges getting minutes from DJaasper and OBellfield and TWillis and KWallace, but they know they have plenty to learn this season. Lopez must bulk up after losing all those pounds in France over the past summer, but he has some nifty moves.
    fan11, it'll be the same tidal wave of non-stop coverage as last season ... keep checking us out and dropping a line ... thx

  19. I remember watching this kid on youtube, like damn. We very well may have landed one special player. I hope he continues to learn, grow and progress throughout his time here. By the sound of it, I think he will.

  20. AM, J-Hawk, & Lopez will all be fine because they are ballers and eventually talent will win out it always does. AAU hoops really helps ballers make the D1 transition a little easier. Once these guys hit their strides they will be fantastic players for UNLV. You will see flashes of brilliance from all these players this year you watch. Lets go REB'S!!

  21. Apparently our old friend Beas Hamga will be playing this season for the Weatherford College Coyotes of the North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference. He decided to leave Valparaiso (not Vanderbilt) after just one semester, without ever officially suiting up.

    http://www.weatherforddemocrat.com/sport...

  22. thats real funny, "highly touted recruit from UNLV" NOT. And Thats great he went from a top 50 recruit to juco without really playing any games..
    where did Deshawn Mitchell go? And Marcus Lawrence went to U of Idaho but got kicked off for gettin caught stealin an iPhone haha. All i know is that all the guys on this team seem dedicated enough to know that PT isn't handed to them and they must earn it.
    Lets just hope the PT gets spread out enough on the bench where noone wants to transfer..cause this will be one special group

  23. DeShawn Mitchell transfered to Siena I believe. I wish him the best luck, he had some nasty blocks last season and was very athletic.

    QT is going to be a great addition for us next year. He needs to be like Jasper this year and fully rehab his injury to come back stronger than ever and hungry to play.

  24. works out perfect..a nagging injury..transfer to UNLV..surgery and rehab for a year.. and come back 110%. Yea i liked Mitchell, but he wouldn't have played much this year or next...good luck at Siena, maybe see him in the tourny