Thursday, Nov. 12, 2009 | 2:05 a.m.
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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.
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.”