UNLV BASKETBALL:

Notebook: UNLV prospect Polee likes what he sees, and hears, at the Mack

Thrilling win over No. 16 Louisville and raucous crowd leaves recruit giddy

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Los Angeles Westchester High forward Dwayne Polee Jr. joins the UNLV student section during a Nov. 28, 2009 game against Louisville at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Rebels upset the 16th-ranked Cardinals, 76-71.

No. 16 Louisville vs. UNLV

Despite losing a 19-point lead, UNLV held on to beat sixteenth-ranked Louisville 76-71 Saturday.

UNLV-Louisville Basketball

UNLV forward Brice Massamba and the rest of the Rebels celebrate their 76-71 upset of 16th-ranked Louisville Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

POSTGAME EDITION: Rebels produce winners across the board on busy day

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Ryan Greene, Christine Killimayer and Ray Brewer discuss a busy day in UNLV athletics, including the hoops squad's resounding 76-71 victory over No. 16 Louisville at the Mack and the football team's sendoff to coach Mike Sanford and its 16 seniors coming in the form of a 28-24 come-from-behind victory at home over San Diego State.

Los Angeles Westchester High forward Dwayne Polee Jr. couldn’t have picked a better time to visit the UNLV campus and take in a Rebels basketball game.

He was all smiles Saturday afternoon during UNLV's 76-71 victory over 16th-ranked Louisville before an electric crowd of 14,390 inside the Thomas & Mack Center.

“It’s a really close-knit team,” Polee said. “I’m liking that a lot, that family feeling. Like a home away from home.”

Polee started his recruitment process anew when Southern California, under Tim Floyd, imploded. New Trojans coach Kevin O’Neill kept all of Floyd’s assistants, including Polee’s father, Dwayne Sr., who played at UNLV for one season in the early 1980s.

Junior said it wasn’t an easy decision to opt out of going to USC.

“No, it wasn’t, because of the situation with my dad,” he said. “But after he and I talked, we straightened that out. Now, everything is much easier.”

Early in the second half, three members of the UNLV student section Kruger’s Korner walked over to where Polee was sitting with his mother Yolanda and sister Ashli, and uncle Larry Kenon, and took him to their lair.

Kenon played basketball for the San Antonio Spurs, but he said he didn’t want to comment about Polee’s future. It’s up to him, Kenon said.

Polee stayed with the students the rest of the game, clapping a bit, waving when Cardinals attempted free throws, texting messages to friends … and smiling.

“I’m basically looking for a family feeling and a coach who will develop me both as a player and a man,” Polee said.

What about the raucous atmosphere in the Mack on Saturday?

“I love it,” he said. “Yeah, I do.”

Is that what he’ll be looking for in the future?

“Yes,” he said, “it is.”

In a concourse at halftime, Polee was talking about his big decision when Sarah Quick, Rebels sophomore forward Chace Stanback's mother, walked by and said, “Go to UNLV!”

Polee, at about 6-feet-6 and 180 pounds, is considered the No. 27 national power forward prospect for the Class of 2010, according to the recruiting service Scout.com, and he’s a three-star national figure at small forward by Rivals.com. He is known for his electric finishes and stunning blocks.

Polee is familiar with Stanback and UNLV players Matt Shaw and Justin Hawkins from playing in the Southern California area. And Polee played prep ball at Westchester with Oscar Bellfield.

Polee said he will try to arrange recruiting trips to Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon and Washington.

“I want to see what’s out there, first, before I make a premature decision,” he said. “I will want to discuss it with my family.”

Pressed about his UNLV trip, Polee was blunt.

“I like the family atmosphere,” he said. “It’s like a home away from home. That’s how I feel.”

No fewer than half a dozen times in the first half, the crowd exploded as UNLV took a 40-30 lead into the intermission.

Could Polee see himself causing such eruptions in a UNLV crowd in the future?

“Yeah, I could,” he said. “It just feels good, yeah.”

Normally reserved Santee lets loose

Click to enlarge photo

UNLV forward Darris Santee yells after a dunk against Louisville during the first half of Saturday's game at the Thomas & Mack Center.

It was a rare outburst, and he knew it. Six minutes into the game, senior center Darris Santee converted a dunk on Jared Swopshire of the Cardinals for a 12-8 UNLV advantage.

Feeling the atmosphere inside the Mack, Santee howled to the heavens. That qualified as a wild outburst from the usually quiet and mild-mannered Santee, a center of few words and fewer emotions.

“That brought a lot out of me,” he said. “I just wanted to come out and show people I can play at this level, play strong and help my team win.”

Had he been hearing critics?

“No, not hear,” Santee said. “But I’ve been thinking what they’re thinking. I hadn’t been playing to my abilities. I wanted to play to the best of my abilities and have a good game.”

What was going on with the Rebels when Louisville cut its 19-point deficit to nothing?

“We tried not to panic,” Santee said. “We had to calm down and take care of the ball, be strong with the ball, and finish the game well.”

Bellfield thwarted the Cardinals by scoring eight points in three minutes to give UNLV a 70-66 edge. With 2:04 left, Santee made it 72-66 with two free throws after he was fouled grabbing a rebound.

Santee finished with 13 points and 5 rebounds. The three-headed monster of Santee, Matt Shaw and starter Brice Massamba combined for 23 points, 7 rebounds (all on defense), and an assist, block and a steal.

“I showed that I can be more aggressive, go to the hole stronger and finish,” Santee said. “My mindset has to be to finish around the rim with authority. I have to take that attitude into every game.”

Free throws

Junior point guard Derrick Jasper finished off two more alley-oop slams Saturday to rile up an already pumped-up crowd. In the first half, Bellfield looped the ball to Jasper who polished it off in impressive fashion for a 27-22 lead. With 6:39 left, junior guard Tre'Von Willis threw a lob that Jasper hammered home to make it 62-56. Willis and Jasper connected on that play for the first time Wednesday against Holy Cross. “We’ve been doing that for years,” Willis said … Willis had nailed all 18 of his free throws in UNLV’s first four games. He missed on his first attempt at the line Saturday, with 2:20 left in the first half, then he made one. He was 4-for-5 the rest of the game and is 23-for-25 on the season … Rebels coach Lon Kruger and senior walk-on guard Steve “Chop” Jones might not like to read this, but against four Division-I foes Chop is 1-for-10 from the field in 68 total minutes. Is that not like playing four-on-five? … In UNLV’s five games, it has doled out 19, 19, 20, 19 and, Saturday vs. the Cards, 21 assists. That is sharing the sugar, as coaches like to say … Look for UNLV to play Illinois at the United Center in Chicago early in the 2011-12 season … A few miles from the Mack, about 90 minutes before tip-off, cruised a big red pick-up truck with the following personalized license plate – H8UNR. A Rebels mascot adorned the tailgate of the rig.

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  1. Love it! Polee seemed like a great kid when I talked to him and told him we'd love to have him!

    Come be a Rebel Dwayne!

  2. good to hear him see the love...i wish he was visiting Arizona when we play them on Wednesday, but that will most likely not happen.

    He better hurry and commit and not take his precious little time b/c Cory Joseph's visit is 2 weeks away Rebels fans!!!!!!

  3. Pitino (in my opinion) is an arse,,, allegedly. This is not a personal attack on that pompous, good for nothing piece of garbage of an excuse for a coach. After he was done playing us like a violin (to get more money from Loserville) his true colors are well documented,,,,, allllllleeeegeedly. I mean, who amongst us has not given hundreds of thousands of $$ to a (friend) to be quiet?

    I have "0" first hand accounts of the "said coaches" indiscretions but am pretty sure that he's not someone you want at your Thanksgiving dinner.

    Bottom line is we have a coach with class, dignity and a presence that we can all be proud of. Wish I could say the same for those folks in Loserville.

    One last thing. If the game itself is shorter than the time it takes you to leave the parking lot, you might be a Rebneck.

  4. Yay Polee we love you already.....please be a Rebel. Dwayne just seems like he fits in and belongs here at UNLV, he's already part of the family.

    I've met Rick twice...2 times a jerk. Once in a mall here in Vegas and one in a Restaurant in Del Mar, Ca. Im so glad we ended up with Kruger instead of Pitino...Lon is such a genuine nice guy.

  5. I havent met Pitino in person, but Lon many times. Every time he goes over and shakes my kid's hands and introduces himself. My kids love Lon as do I, and he is genuinely one of the nicest guys around (not to mention a damn good coach who doesnt get flustered!) Polee, you could be the man in Vegas!!! we havent had a finisher like you in ages, and you could rock the Thomas and Mack even more than last night! Go to UNLV!!!

  6. The 4 on 5 comment about chop is just ridiculous. He's not out there to score for us, he's there to provide a spark off the bench by playing solid D and hustling his tail off. Rob, Ive been a reader of the sun and your columns for a long time now but the 4 on 5 comment should never have been made. Basketball is more than just offense and although chop may never lead the team n scoring he does a lot of positive things n his limited time on the court. That first highlight oop to Jasper would have never happened if chop didn't hustle his a$$ off and save the ball from goin out of bounds n the first place...
    Ps- polees highlights r just ridiculous, I really hope we get that kid

  7. I do not agree with you rob. (Great name, by the way) :-) ... 1 basket in 68 minutes? Uh, the name of the game is points, no? Scoring? That's basic. If you have no issues or worries with that, then good for you. But to not point it out would be overlooking a glaring statistic. Do with that what you want. And if you are happy with that, then good for you. Hustle is unquestionable. Undisputed. Some production, at somep point, is kind of important.

  8. I'll agree with Meich here, and say that part of a great offense is knowing that everyone can be dangerous shooting. If a guy can't shoot, it's one less thing to worry about, the other team will know if he gets the ball, he is going to pass it.

    Polee, I hope you have great trips to other schools, but keep UNLV in your mind as it has been the 1st of your visit, and I hope a pretty influential visit at that.

  9. Chop's minutes will decline as the season advances, imo.

  10. I feel compelled to defend Chop, Kruger, and rebelrob on this point; and needless to say, I agree with rebelrob.

    Frankly, I am shocked that you wrote that comment, Rob; it is completely out of character for you.

    Consider the statistics:
    Chopper has scored 13 total points. Every point counts, right?

    Chopper is shooting a team worst .286. Let the record reflect that Chace Stanback shoots only .078 points better than Chopper at .364. Maybe Chace shouldn't be on the court either.

    Two of Choppers four field goals are three-pointers. He is shooting .250 beyond the arc. That ties him with Bellfield and Shaw. This is a better percentage than eight other Rebels.

    Chopper has gone 3 of 4 from the charity stripe. That's better than the team average.

    He is averaging 1.2 rebounds. Kendall Wallace is averaging 1.4 rebounds, with only 1 more total rebound.

    Chopper has committed 8 personal fouls. Chops foul prone, no doubt. Hey, he is a limited player with limited skill sets -- he'd be the first to tell you that. But he is allowed 5 fouls per game, so it is like Vacation Time: Use 'em or lose 'em!

    Chop has three assists. More than Brice, same number as Darris and Kendall.

    Chop has 1 Turnover. This stat is important, given what his role is. By comparison (comparable minutes), Anthony Marshall has 7 Turnovers, Brice 2, Darris 2, and Justin Hawkins 5.

    Chop has no blocks. Chop has no vertical, so no surprise there.

    Chop has no steals. Not his game. Smooth and steady wins the race in Chop's book.

    The most important stat: Chop has played 83 minutes. These minutes are critical since it gives the other Rebels an opportunity to hit the bench for a breather and come back strong.

    Make no mistake -- I am not trying to make a case that Chop is the best player on the floor. My point is that statistics do not tell the entire story. There are intangibles that the stats don't depict. Ask any Rebel or any coach what Chopper means to this team. He is a leader. He might be THE leader.

    To Doc's comment, his minutes may decline as the season progresses, but so may Marshall's or Hawkin's. For that matter, the "Three Headed Monster" might be reduced to a "Two Headed Monster", or perhaps just one. Who knows? What is clear though is even if their minutes are reduced, their importance to the team is not diminished. But that's the beauty and drama that is the entire basketball season.

  11. Saw Polee and his family in the UNLV bookstore before the game....they were all buying shirts, hats, etc....could be a positive sign!

  12. RebelAlum44,
    yes that has to be a positive sign...
    ..he wouldnt be buying stuff if he wasnt seriously interested...I think at this point he is ours to lose, and the other teams will have a tough time prying him away from Lon and Co.

  13. I think the comment about wanting a coach to develope him as a player and a man says a lot, not only about his character but also his feellings for Lon. He sounds just like the kind of player Lon gets. 3 star, good kid with potential to work hard and be a great player.

    Great to see the love by the students.

    Is there a schedule somewhere for Findlay? Maybe we can pass it out at the next few games to start getting fans there with signs of support.

  14. If our team is depending on Chop playing 15+ minutes a game then we have problems. Chop was getting worked all game yesterday, and I completely agree with Miech, it was like 4 on 5 when he was on the floor.

  15. OK fellow Rebel fans. Just finished watching some youtube video on Polee. This kid jumps out of the gym. Reminds me of J.R. Rider with more height and slightly more hops and a lot nicer kid. If we get him, will he stay more than one year though?

  16. Okay, so Chop is a lousy shot... I think Coach Kruger knows what he's doing.

    The game is not all about points, its about winning. You just need one more than the opposition.

    I have seen many teams with too many good shots who were not team players and the teams stunk. No arguing with the statistics but there is more to it than that.

    Let Lon Kruger coach, I think he knows Chop's value. If he Kruger plays him, its for a reason.

  17. What is Chop's value? He isn't in the same league as the other 9 guys on the floor. He would be good in a 6 foot and under league. Is it me or does he look like he has tourette's syndrome when he plays defense.

    Chop lay off the Big Mac's buddy!

  18. Just like in the movie Hoosiers when Gene Hackman insisted playing only 4 players on the court when his other player fouled out. He knew what he was doing too.

    Hey, I agree with you. Kruger is winning, so who am I to judge? But I still agree with Miech's point.

  19. Hey Rob do you know if Cory Joseph was at the game?

  20. This is another sick video with Polee. Im drooling over the possibility of Polee and Quintrel Thomas at the 4 spot next year. Those could be a devastating combo.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlpOECo2e...

  21. I could not agree more with Rob. He pointed out the obvious. IMO Chop is not a good player. He may hussle but he does not have the skill to be playing that many minutes. Everytime he is on the floor my whole season ticket section sighs.

  22. fever24, Cory was not at the game. He was finishing a third game in three days with Findlay at a tourney in Peoria, Ill.
    fever 2, Wed night Findlay plays at home. Australia Travelers at 7 pm. Henderson Int'l is easy to get to. You can get there from Horizon Ridge, that's my easiest route. From Eastern, to to H Ridge and take a left. If you're coming from the east on H Ridge, just take it to Sandy Ridge. Go all the way up, through a couple lights, until it ends. All the way (it's not too long) ... take a right and Henderson Int'l is right there at the right. More folks should be heading up there and flashing UNLV posters and We Want Cory and all sorts of stuff. I think that would go miles.
    monsterjam, say what you want, but I am not the PR wing of the program, sports dept. or university. Facts are facts, and one basket in 68 minutes against D-I foes? That's a tough one, no matter how much "hustle" you bring to the court or how important it is to spell others.

  23. Chop is getting minutes until conference play begins. Plain and simple. Kruger simply loves his seniors, and if his bench wasn't this deep, I guarantee you Chop sits with Lopez and Hanni.

    I love the guy, but all he is going to do is allow teams a chance to double knowing they can let this kid shoot and likely miss.

  24. By the way, Chop is 2-for-11 this season in 68 minutes vs D-I foes ... (not 1-for-10) ... there was an error in the UNR box score ...

  25. Chop might be great in practice, but that is where he should stay. I groan every time he checks in. If coach feels so strongly, use him as a situational defensive sub. Or, let him be the "unsung practice hero" and let him push the team there. I think the more minutes he gets, the less our main 8 or 9 have time to gel.

  26. Louis, I think it's a topic we're doing to explore further very, very soon... thx

  27. I see Jones in the huddles and it is clear he is one, if not thee, emotional leader leader on this team. If he doesn't play I don't see that happening near as much or having the same effect. IMO, his intangibles heavily outweigh his lack of scoring.

  28. The rotation is working just fine at this point, why mess with it? Agreed Chop can't shoot a lick and doesn't shoot as good as my 5th grader but I wouldn't change a thing right now. After listening to Lon today on 1100AM he doesn't plan on changing his rotation at all and I say props to him for that. If he ever shortens this rotation it will be to his teams demise and he knows that. If he continues to play 11 men this team will go deep into March. We have the athletes, the depth, the playmakers, and the heart to go real far.

  29. Totally agree Bet. Great comment.