UNLV’s Carlos Lopez doing well but leaning toward redshirt year

Image

Justin M. Bowen

Rebels freshman power forward Carlos Lopez skies to snatch a rebound at a practice prior to the 2009-10 season.

Click to enlarge photo

Carlos Lopez, who helped Findlay College Prep win a national championship last season, gathers a loose ball during a preseason UNLV practice.

Click to enlarge photo

Carlos Lopez holds the championship trophy after the Findlay Prep Pilots defeated Oak Hill Academy, 74-66, in the title game of the inaugural ESPN RISE National High School Invitational in April. Lopez, now with UNLV, is leaning toward redshirting his freshman year.

The Rebel Room

One season begins, will another continue?

  • You need to upgrade your Flash Player

Ryan Greene, Rob Miech and Ray Brewer discuss both UNLV's ugly exhibition — which, remember, was just an exhibition — against Washburn this week on the hardwood. Plus, the guys look at what kind of shot the 4-6 UNLV football team actually has to keep its dream alive at Air Force this weekend.

UNLV freshman power forward Carlos Lopez knew Mike Peck, his high school coach, was watching the Rebels’ exhibition Tuesday night inside the Thomas & Mack Center.

After UNLV’s 10-point victory over Division-II Washburn, Lopez zipped a text message to Peck, about to begin his third season at Findlay College Prep.

What did you think about the game?

You guys will be fine, Peck wrote. Once coach (Lon Kruger) figures out a seven- or eight-man rotation, and you guys start gelling and meshing, you guys will be fine. It’s just a matter of getting to that point.

Lopez didn’t play, but he had to know what his mentor thought of his team.

Then the topic shifted to how Lopez is handling his big transition to Division-I basketball and the classroom demands of college.

Peck referred to three years ago, when Lopez, who barely knew any English, left Puerto Rico for Findlay.

“You are so much better off and farther along than you were then,” Peck told Lopez. “Plus, they love you over there and they think you’ll be great, and you have a lot of people in town who care about you.

“You have everything.”

Lopez, 19, likely won’t play for the Rebels this season as he’s leaning toward using a redshirt year to bulk up and better prepare for the physical demands of the game.

“We’re moving in that direction, yeah,” Kruger said.

“It’s hard,” Lopez told the Sun of his transition a few days into practice. “People say it’s easy. It’s hard, but I like it. I like the challenge of the school and the basketball team.”

It didn’t help his D-I baptism that he caught a stomach virus at a tournament in France in July. He told the Sun it caused him to drop 30 pounds.

It was more like 8 or 10 pounds, Kruger said Wednesday. Lopez, listed at 6-feet-11, weighs about 205 pounds. Kruger didn’t believe that the French bug was such a setback.

“I think Carlos is doing fine,” Kruger said. “Obviously, he needs strength and he needs weight. That will happen. He has a great feel for it. He’s doing fine. We’re excited about what he’s doing.

“He’ll get a lot out of a redshirt year and he’ll work at it. The redshirt is not a result of him not doing well. He’s done well. He feels like, with an extra year of strength and weight, he’ll (be better). We agree.”

Lopez, known as “Los” to Kruger and every Rebel, had a typical practice Wednesday afternoon inside the Mack.

He was enthusiastic with teammates. He hauled in a rebound and went back up strong for a two-handed dunk. He lunged at Darris Santee, who missed a baseline jumper, like a praying mantis.

But he also hesitated with the ball in the paint and got it stripped. He threw an errant pass, was out of position under the boards and more than once wondered, with palms out, where a play was going.

Kruger doesn’t see a frustrated young player.

“I think Carlos is just tough on himself,” Kruger said. “He expects a lot of himself, in a good way. I think he’s handled it all very well. He’s just competitive. He wants to do well.”

Any frustration, Peck said, is natural for someone in Lopez’s position.

“Any college freshman goes through that in any sport,” Peck said. “I don’t think it sidetracks him or slows him down. He just has to fight through it, like everyone else.”

Because of Findlay’s elite status, Peck believes more might be expected of his graduates, from fans and the players themselves. He said Brice Massamba experienced that last season at UNLV.

Peck raised his voice.

“People honestly expected that kid would dominate for three or four possessions in a row, for two to three minutes in a row? That’s absolutely insane,” he said. “It wasn’t going to happen.”

“They expected this Moses to part the Red Sea? He might have got some rebounds and done some nice things, but not what would have made those fans say, ‘He’s our Savior’ (or) ‘Take us on your shoulders.’ No way.”

A coach with whom Peck worked at his alma mater, Northwood University in Michigan, once said that anyone who redshirts, when he’s finished, never looks back and regrets redshirting.

That’s how it will be with Lopez, Peck predicted.

Some who saw Lopez keep his warm-ups on all night Tuesday might have wondered if he has faraway eyes.

They either have not noticed the big UNLV tattoo on his right biceps or don’t have any idea what makes him tick.

“I would be shocked,” Peck said, “if there was any thought or any wavering about him not being a part of UNLV for the rest of his career.”

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 20 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy.

  1. i hope that whatever is best for carlos is what is done. if he redshirts, i hope santee massamba and shaw are ready to catch a damn pass down there in the paint!!

  2. I couldnt believe how many passes went through shaw's hand, maybe its beginning jitters. At times the big men seemed confused down in the paint and didnt know what was going on. I couldnt understand why there weren't enough passes going down low or plays to the basket with the all the big guys!! I do think we will improve and be a contender for the conferance championship.

  3. never been sold on Shaw. He's best shooting three's from the top of the key and that's not what we need from our Big's. I hope they all step it up.

  4. I think he could be really great for us, and a redshirt year would be extremely beneficial for him and us. I just hope he is able to keep a positive attitude and really work hard. I want him in a Rebels uniform. It gets really annoying having the same naysayer comment on every article multiple times. Didn't your mother ever tell you if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all? I wonder if you have any friends? Most people can't stand to be around those who are always negative. You call yourself a real fan, but that's far from the truth. You're nothing special, there are tons just like you. They're called fair-weather fans. Most just aren't as annoying. I wish we were top 10 just like everyone else. It's called life. The college basketball landscape is different. Deal with it! Be more considerate in your comments, especially about the players. Get some friends.

  5. I don't like seeing Lopez use a Redshirt this season, we REALLY need him. I wish Kruger would talk him into playing during the Pittsburg St. game. At least see what he can do, maybe he would change his mind about redshirting. At minimum, at least he will be able to make a better decision.

  6. We're in big trouble again this year inside the paint. I just call things like I see them. We don't have a legit big man and that is going to hurt us. I would have a different take if Santee was a nasty 6'8 who crushed cats with hammer dunks but that is not the case. After reading how well Santee has been playing in practice he was a huge bust against a tiny D2 Washburn. He should have put his a** in their faces and hung on the rim everytime he touched the ball against Washburn. You can't recruit guys who aren't physical and short centers and expect them to play like beasts under the basket. They aren't going to turn it around when they have played a finesse style of ball their whole lives. If you want a banger, bruiser, and intimidator you have to recruit that way not these 6'8 soft guys who don't want to mix it up.

  7. I am afraid we may need Los to play this year. He plays more aggressive than any big man we have on the floor. He may not be muscle bound but he is agile and can block shots too. He is adjusting to the Division I game though. I can see the adjustment period. If we can afford it than he will get lots out of this and be a terrific player down the road.

  8. I feel like I'm taking crazy pills here! Is no one else troubled by the fact that a PLAYER had to convince a COACH that he should redshirt??? Shouldn't it be the other way around?? What the heck kind of "player" doesn't want to play?? Obviously I don't know the whole story, but I just can't imagine a situation that would make sense for a player WANTING to redshirt when his coach wants him to play... Sounds like he's scared.

  9. Small Ball here we come . Again!

  10. if he does redshirt..a good thing i see out of it is that they can start these guys in 2 seasons (when jasper/tre are gone :/)
    oscar-sr (6'2)
    marshall-jr (6'3)
    stanback-sr (6'8)
    qthomas-sr (6'9)
    lopez-soph (6'11)
    thats scary and very tall!! hawkins, shaw, henry buckley, and the new recruits can bring the spark off the bench. we look like we are going in the right direction to being in the top 25. a top 20 recruit would be great (CORY JOSEPH PLEASE COME TO UNLV)

  11. I do not know if Carlos is ready to be a major factor yet but I do know one thing...he is most likely better than anyone else we have down low. As expected Santee is going to find himself burried deep on the bench and Massamba may be more nimble but still lacks any kind of explosion or skill to be any force down low. Shaw is out of shape and will always be more of a stand still shooter. Its baptism by fire time Carlos. Get him in there.

  12. I certainly understand the logic of Lopez redshirting here, but I don't think we can afford it. Unless Shaw and Massamba have standout games Saturday night, at least better than they played against Washburn, I don't think the Rebs have the luxury of losing another big man. I never felt like our centers were individually dominant, but as a group, they could produce numbers comparable to any quality big man in the country. Please reconsider this decision. Don't let our low post play be UNLV's Achilles heel yet again this season.

  13. I don't care how skinny Lopez is, get him in there! He will put on weight as he pigs out and hits weights after practice. As a freshman he is our best big, even being skinny he will still block some shots, run the break, hit the boards, and dunk some put backs. If we are left with Santee & Massamba the whole season we are really screwed!!

    @Jeff: I agree if Lopez is asking to redshirt that is not good.

  14. "Its baptism by fire time Carlos." You're damn right, Gumby.

    Heaven forbid another center redshirts and then transfers outta here..

  15. Am I the only one that was at the First Look? Lopez did not display the athletic ability that so many are claiming he has. As far as I know that was the only chance anyone got to see this kid play. Can someone please tell me what was so special about his performance that evening that leads you to believe he shouldn't redshirt?

  16. bigjohn,
    good point..but have u seen our other big men play? not too good at this point. putting a freshman it with a ton of finesse skill and potential is smarter than guys who never will be good.

  17. Ima be honest to all on this board. AT THIS PONT Lopez isnt as good as Massamba, Santee and Shaw! He will be ready for the college game in about a year or two, but now, as a true freshamn, he's weak, he's wack, he soft, he has no confidence! Baptism by fire will destroy that confidence forever! Seems like everybody is basing everything on what he did to high school kids, "he has a ton of finesse and skill!" yeah against high schoolers. If he can't get busy in practice against the likes of Shaw, Santee and Massamba what the heck do you think he is going to do against BYU, Louisville, Arizona, Reno, Southern Illinois, SDSU etc! Man wake up people!

  18. I agree this team just cant afford Los to redshirt based on how disappointing our big guys have been the last two seasons. From all accounts Lopez seems like the kind of kid that can handle this type of transition. I say let the kid play, he's the best we have at this point. Now should Shaw or Massamba or Santee step it up then maybe it's a different story but as of right now the team needs him. Work him in slowly off the bench and see what happens. He could always redshirt next season, when we will at least have some other bigs coming in (Buckley, e.g.) Traditionally, big guys take longer to develop in the college game anyway, so I dont really see the pressure (unless he's just putting it on himself). Expectations shouldn't be too high, but the improvement will come from experience so I agree we should put him in there.

  19. I think it is a good idea. If he was ready to play like you all think he is then I am sure he would be starting.
    It sounds like Carlos is a fine young man, I hope he takes a red shirt year and puts a lot of hard work into it.

  20. I think we can all agree that we are going to suck in the post this year!!