UNLV BASKETBALL:

Wallace out to prove he’s more than just a sniper

Junior guard displaying more than just 3-point touch so far in competition for minutes

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Justin M. Bowen

Kendall Wallace blows past Lee Cummard as UNLV took on BYU in the Thomas & Mack Center last season. It was their second meeting of the season, with UNLV pulling out the win 75-74, making it a season sweep against the Cougars.

UNLV Basketball: First Look

Rebels fans got their first taste of the 2009-10 UNLV basketball season at First Look, an intrasquad scrimmage, Friday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.

FirstLook 2009

UNLV head coach Lon Kruger talks to his players after the Rebels FirstLook scrimmage Oct. 16 at the Thomas & Mack Center. Launch slideshow »

When Kendall Wallace popped off of the bench last season for the Rebels — for 14.8 minutes per game, to be exact — just about everyone in the gym knew what kind of spark he was set to provide.

UNLV's most consistent 3-point threat in the 2008-09 campaign shot an impressive 41.1 percent from deep as a sophomore, averaging 4.6 crucial points per game as a reserve.

Never was his knack for giving a pick-me-up three points at a time more apparent than in a 59-38 victory at Air Force on Jan. 31, when he lifted the sluggish Rebels with five treys off the bench, turning a potential upset into a runaway laugher.

"For the most part," Wallace said when asked if he thought he was seen as primarily a shooter. "In high school, I used to drive a little more. I feel like I can still do both when it's called upon, but I'm more of a shoot-first guy, and that helps me drive, because people come out, respect my shot, I'm able to pump-fake, drive to the bucket and create for others."

This season, the part of Wallace's hoops persona, which showed up more in high school, will be more prominently on display. At Mountain View (Ariz.) High, he broke school records in points, assists and steals while leading the Toros to three consecutive 5A state titles.

The competition for minutes at guard with all of the new faces involved on the Rebels' roster has something to do with that.

"It's gonna be tough," Wallace said. "You've got to come out here every day to compete in practice for those minutes in the game.

"I think it all depends on these first couple of weeks of practice and those first couple of games to gain that confidence from all of the coaches to put you out there in pressure situations."

Wallace proved in several other clutch moments as a sophomore that he can be depended upon. Those included hitting two key threes in each of the Rebels' closely contested victories over BYU, plus another pair of long balls in a 79-64 triumph over Arizona at the Thomas & Mack Center in December.

But being pigeon-holed as solely a long-range specialist is not something Wallace wants. He'd rather have his marksmanship seen as just another strength.

"Practice is a time to work on things that aren't your strengths," he said. "I try to drive more and create for other people so I feel more comfortable in games when I do that.

"I feel like I caught a couple of people off-guard last year. They were respecting my shot and I was able to get around them. It might not have been the quickest move, but I was still able to get around them. And I feel like I got a little quicker this year. I feel like I should be able to drive a little bit more."

A couple thousand Rebels fans saw last Friday at the Mack during FirstLook in a 20-minute scrimmage that Wallace was more than willing to mix it up inside with his larger teammates. He's continued to show it so far in practices since then and, according to teammates, it was there all summer long in pick-up ball.

"With all the talent that we have, everyone has to step their game up, and Kendall's one of the guys who really stepped up this summer, working hard," sophomore guard Oscar Bellfield said. "It's gonna pay off.

"We've got a lot of people that can take people off the dribble and create for others. Kendall's gonna have a lot more shots than last year. He's gonna knock them down, but people sleep on the fact that he can take it to the basket also and finish, so it's kind of difficult to figure what he'll do. There will be a lot of opportunities for him to do that."

Aside from the return of Bellfield and junior Tre'Von Willis, the Rebels' deep corps of wing scorers now also consists of ballyhooed transfers Derrick Jasper and Chace Stanback, plus athletic freshmen in Anthony Marshall and Justin Hawkins.

Instead of backing down in the crowded battle for backcourt minutes, Wallace stepped up and now thinks everything will run smooth in turn.

"I know (opponents will) have me down as a shooter," he said. "But it'll be tough for them to just shadow me the whole game."

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  1. With the guys on this team who can drive (and be a legit threat) and dish, Kendall is going to be put in a position to get a lot more open shots this season. Drive and kick is so powerful, but you need that guy knocking down the shot.

    Glad to see Kendall feeling good. He was a key in a few games last year. I believe he started the run vs. Arizona with some big 3s. That was a fun day at the Mack!

  2. Kendall's tip-in at the First Look event had me very surprised. It was one of those moments where I was like, "was that Kendall Wallace that just did that?". I like that he wants to be more than just a shooter, but please, don't stop shooting!

  3. If Kendall is the 2nd or 3rd best player on this team you wont be seeing us in the NCAA or the NIT!
    Fortunately he is not the 2nd or 3rd best player. He is a role player who will probably get about the same amount of time or less than last year. Too many talented and athletic players for Kendall to do much more.

  4. This UNLV squad is going to be soooo mediocre this season! Just like they are every season!!! They need to hire a King of a Coach like Reggie Theus! Reggie is soooo dreamy... He'll take us to the top of the rankings! We need to recruit players who get gold stars! Blah-blah-blah-blah... My name is Sufferin and I love to reee-bel on UNLV articles because I don't get enough attention at home! :P

    All kidding aside- I'm looking forward to following this UNLV team. It's going to be an exciting season, for sure! Glad to have Lon as our coach and happy to see that the RUNNIN' will be back with the REBELS! Go! Fight! Win!

  5. Go get 'em Squirrel!

  6. It's been fun to watch Kendall mature and develop as a player. His growth under Lon's tutelage has been tremendous, and I anticipate more of the same this year. I wish him all the best this upcoming season.

  7. He's our Travis Bice

  8. Yeahhh no.

    Hoffman was a Travis Bice. Kendall is a 7 or 8 man amongst a huge crop of talented players.

    Sufferin', you told us all how bad UNLV was in 2006 and that they'd finish towards the bottom of the conference. Then they went on to the sweet sixteen. Luck you say. But it doesn't matter if it was or not (which it wasn't) because they fininshed 2nd regular season and won the MWC tournament. Meaning, you were wrong! You are not any kind of prognosticator and you're not a good judge of team talent. And your only response to being wrong, "it was luck". Yeah, until they did it again the next season. You can't even admit it. Before you would give us all your fruitless statistics on how Lon hasn't won important games while here, but...after the last 3 years Kruger has put your weak stats to bed and you conveniently don't use them anymore.

    Doesn't the fact that Larry and the boys are coming back to support Lon Kruger and UNLV do anything to move your stance on Kruger? Or in your mind it must be that because Larry Johnson supports Lon he must not be the Rebel great that you thought he was.

    No one respects anything you have to say yet you still say it. "Those that have brains have something to say, those that don't...have to say something." And that's your lack of wit to a T.

  9. @ Fast Cameron

    What???? I think your memory has begun to slip in our old age. Bice was also the 7 or 8 man amongst an even better crop of talented players. As a sophmore, the NC year, he was playing more than 13 minutes a game, he played in every game, and he averaged more about 6 points per game. I don't think Hoffman scored that much in his entire career at UNLV. Bice also led UNLV with 19 points in a game against IOWA during that season.

    Here's a link to see what Tark thought about Travis.

    http://articles.latimes.com/1990-02-14/s...

    I think you have forgotten how many threes Bice hit...and not during garbage time. Bice was used in our second rotation. His lack of speed was made up for in length and the ability to shoot from anywhere on the floor.

    Hoffman was no Travis Bice...Hoffman was another Brian Emerzian or David Rice.