REBELS BASKETBALL:

10 minutes with UNLV guard Derrick Jasper

After knee injury disrupted Jasper’s 2009-10 campaign, he hopes to pick up where he left off as a senior

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Sam Morris

UNLV athletic trainer Dave Tomchek brags to Derrick Jasper that it only took him four tries to make a 3-point shot at the end of practice on Wednesday, March 17, 2010, before the first round of the NCAA Basketball Championships at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City.

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UNLV guard Derrick Jasper shoots and gets fouled during the game against New Mexico on Jan. 9 at The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M. The Rebels beat the 15th-ranked Lobos, 74-62.

Editor's Note: Each week this summer, UNLV beat writer Ryan Greene will have a 10-minute question-and-answer session with a member of the Rebels' men's basketball team. The focus is not just on last season but also what lies ahead.

After spending his first year on campus at UNLV rehabbing his left knee following a transfer from Kentucky, it took Derrick Jasper roughly half of a season to round into form.

And just as he did, the 6-foot-6 swingman's first season as a Rebel came to a screeching halt.

Late in the first half of a slowed-down slugfest against Air Force on Jan. 26 at the Thomas & Mack Center, teammate Matt Shaw fell backward while taking a charge and his 6-foot-8 frame landed on Jasper's left leg at the wrong angle.

Jasper was helped off the court and, despite suffering a partially torn medial collateral ligament that did not require surgery, missed the rest of the season.

That night he had three points, four rebounds and four assists, showing that when at his peak, Jasper could be the do-it-all cog that kept everyone moving smoothly as a unit.

The Paso Robles, Calif., native averaged 6.7 points per game last season, provided several highlights above the rim — most notably an alley-oop finish against Louisville — and ranked second on the team with 4.9 rebounds per contest.

Jasper tried to come back late last season, but has no regrets about not doing so, hoping that the midseason form he showed can present itself early in his senior campaign and help a veteran UNLV squad with high expectations in 2010-11.

Ryan Greene: The big topic with you last year was just how things kind of dramatically changed in the middle of the season with the injury. Where are you at right now? Are you back to 100 percent and full speed?

Derrick Jasper: Well, I started playing once a week just this week. I took a month off just to rehab the knee, and it's getting pretty strong. It's feeling pretty good, but I don't really do percentages.

RG: Yeah, percentages can be a dangerous game. Did you expect to still have to be rehabbing after the season ended?

DJ: Oh yeah, I definitely knew I'd have to be rehabbing. I probably will for the rest of my career. It's just something I have to deal with and have to keep trying to get my knee stronger.

RG: Now that you're getting ready to be back on the floor full-time, is there any hesitation? Do you have any worry? Have you gotten back mentally to where you think you're ready to handle it again?

DJ: Yeah. I've gone through a lot of rehab, done a lot of cardio. I'm ready to just go out there and play pick-up. I'm excited to be back out playing with my teammates, because it's been a while since I've been out there and actually played with them. I'm really looking forward to that.

RG: Are you worried about rust at all? You talked about that at the beginning of last year. Do you expect pick-up ball to be kind of rusty as you're easing your way back into it?

DJ: I fully expect that. I really haven't played basketball in a while, but I just want to go out there and play. I practiced a little bit after the season when we did individual workouts, did some 40-minute shoot-arounds, some half-court stuff. Nothing really full-speed, full-court just yet, though.

RG: You've got one year left, so are you in a situation where you want to be careful, take your time and make sure you're absolutely ready to go before rushing anything? I'd imagine this means the world to you. It's been a strange college career and you've got a chance to end it on a really good note. How much are you valuing this year?

DJ: I'm definitely valuing it. It's my last year of college basketball, we've got a great group of seniors coming back this year and some great underclassmen. This year is going to be huge. We add a couple different types of players and I think this is going to be a good year for us.

RG: What has going through all of this taught you about yourself? Not even in basketball terms, but just dealing with adversity and so much.

DJ: I definitely learned a lot about dealing with adversity. Coming into college, I never thought I would be hurt for most of my career. It's just something that you learn to deal with and try to overcome. I don't think anyone's ever prepared for microfracture surgery and the things that come after it. It's tough as a whole, and I'm still trying to overcome it.

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UNLV guard Derrick Jasper drives past Davis Baker on Dec. 15 as the Rebels took on Southern Utah at the Centrum Arena in Cedar City, Utah. UNLV dominated the second half and came out with a 77-59 win.

RG: Have you come out better because of all of it?

DJ: Definitely. It taught me patience.

RG: Lets talk about your game specifically. You really were rounding into form right before the injury happened. At full strength, when you're really hitting your stride, is that the kind of player people can expect to see? The guy who scores some, is a force on the boards and does a little bit of everything?

DJ: Yeah, I've always been a guy who can do a little bit of everything. Now I just want to be a leader as one of the seniors on the team. People will be looking up to us, and I want to set a good example starting in practice.

RG: Last season, there was so much unknown coming into it. You hadn't played in a couple of years, Chace Stanback hadn't played in a couple years, all of that. This year, it's the complete opposite. How does an offseason change when pretty much everything about a team is known?

DJ: We started the year a little rusty, but Chace came into his own at the end of the year, and we have our players that we're going to be counting on, and we're adding some really good players in Quintrell (Thomas) and Carlos (Lopez). They got a whole year of practice and know how to run our sets. We've got great chemistry with this team, and we'll build from that.

RG: I asked Chace about having seen Quintrell and Carlos. Attending pick-ups, what have you seen from them?

DJ: They're added bodies, and we need some big guys who can help on the boards. I feel like Quintrell can really help with that big body. He's really aggressive. Carlos brings another dimension to our team. He's a shifty, crafty type of big man.

RG: What are you doing this summer outside of basketball?

DJ: I'm doing an internship at the Cannery Resort and Casino. This is my first summer actually not taking summer school, so it feels a little weird going to work instead of class. It's a great situation for an internship. I get to learn how the business is run. It's a whole different experience going to work for eight hours a day. You're not really used to that as a student-athlete, but it's the summer, so I'm trying new things while working on my game.

RG: Seeing the business side of the hotel and casino industry, does it make you want to get into that when your playing days are done?

DJ: Yeah, it definitely attracts me. I like the casino business, so I'm trying to get my feet wet and feel out my interests. We'll see where it goes from there. I already graduated in May. Now I plan on working on my master's. It'll either be in sports management or business. I haven't decided yet.

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UNLV junior Derrick Jasper plays defense on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2009, against Pittsburg State in the season opener for both teams at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Rebels blew it open in the second half en route to a 91-52 victory.

RG: A lot of people just look at how the basketball part of your college career has gone, but as a whole, it's been pretty good for you, huh?

DJ: Yeah. I've definitely enjoyed college, it's been a great experience, I've got one more year left and I want to go out with a bang. Basketball-wise, we have the pieces to make a run and build on our tournament appearance from this year. I want to win some games in the tournament, make it as far as we can, playing up to our potential. We have the pieces to make a good run, and this year we're looking at advancing instead of just making the tournament.

RG: Are you still looking at the possibility of playing ball after school? Or has everything made you shift your focus?

DJ: I feel like I want to play basketball, but I have to see how my knee feels after the season. It's something I'll have to deal with forever. I'm trying to get better, work through it and see how the end of the year treats me. I definitely feel like I could play at the next level, but we'll see.

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  1. We're rooting for you to get back strong, Derrick. We love watching you play and definitely missed your athleticism in a few games at the end of last season.

    Ready for November! U-N-L-V!

  2. Sounds like he's back on the right track. Good luck this season DJ, and with a master's degree if you choose to pursue that avenue.

    Is it basketball season yet?! Pro ball just didn't do it for me.

  3. right

  4. Coach Kruger, please experiment a little with Jasper at the point (in games). We saw him transform Kentucky's team in that role, and it would allow size to the lineup instantly. At least try it once in a while... When Curtis Terry ran the point his size gave us all kinds of match-up advantages throughout the season. I have to believe Jasper (even taller than Terry) could open up opportunities the same way. He's a natural pass-first guy anyway.

    I love Oscar too. But he'd be a very nice 6th man in some cases.

  5. At this point, I say keep the ball in Oscar's hands all four years he's here.

    The minutes invested in Bellfield at PG during his freshman and sophomore years will pay off this season and make him a force in his senior year.

    It's unfortunate that things worked out for Jasper the way they did. But he transitioned into a small forward roll at Kentucky too. He is a great rebounder/finisher, and we need him to do those things.

    Even more, though, I believe that Bellfield simply earned the spot over Jasper. He's had the job since he got to UNLV. And I don't think he's going to let anyone take it from him.

    Bellfield has a better A/TO ratio and is a better shooter. MUCH better at the FT line. Very good at handling back court pressure (Louisville), and he led the MWC in assists!

    Bellfield should be the PG....especially with the game on the line.

    At the end of the game, can you really have a guy who shoots under 50% from the FT line playing PG?

    Having said that, I am praying that Jasper can have a healthy season. He has been to hell and back with that knee. With what he's been through, he deserves to have a successful, injury free senior year.

    I still have the Louisville game in HD on my DVR. Can't wait to see more alley-oop, thunderous jams in the T&M!

  6. Well, one of the better interviews Ryan has done. Thanks Ryan, and thank you Jasper for the honesty.

    This interview draws mixed emotions from me - on one hand, I am sincerely happy that Jasper may have found a calling outside of basketball. He is a smart guy and maybe one day I'll spend my hard earned money in his casino.

    On the other hand, the selfish part of me is a bit disappointed that we will never see the true potential that Derrick Jasper could have been at UNLV. If we get 10-15 minutes of quality play out of him as a reserve guard, I will be very happy.

    Here's to Derrick and his senior season...Go Rebels!

  7. Jasper has a great outlook.

    Time will tell about his knee problems

  8. Jasper was my favorite Player of the 2009 - 20010 Year! my GF cried when he was taken out of the Air Force game. she was seriously crying. i'm excited to see him have a healthy season!