Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Sunday, Nov. 29, 2009 | 2:20 a.m.
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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.
“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 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
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.”
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.