REBELS BASKETBALL:

10 minutes with UNLV guard Oscar Bellfield

After successful sophomore season, Bellfield is healthy again and ready to take UNLV beyond the NCAA tournament’s first round

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Justin M. Bowen

UNLV guard Oscar Bellfield passes during a game on Saturday, March 6, 2010, against Wyoming at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV closed the regular season with a 74-56 win.

Previous '10 minutes with...' sessions

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.

At times down the stretch run of the 2009-10 season, Oscar Bellfield's mind had to fight his own physical limitations.

He suffered what turned out to be a torn meniscus in his left knee during an 88-74 thrashing of BYU at the Thomas & Mack Center on Feb. 6. But after missing just a day of practice, a banged-up Bellfield fought through and helped lead the Rebels to their third NCAA tournament berth in four years.

He hit a big 3-pointer to tie UNLV with Northern Iowa in the final minute of their first-round game against Northern Iowa, only to fall, 69-66.

Still, a 25-9 season was nothing to scoff at, and Bellfield has as much to do with it as anyone.

The Los Angeles native was the only Rebel to start all 34 games, averaging 9.3 points, 4.8 assists and 2.5 rebounds per contest. His most impressive number, though, was his Mountain West Conference-leading assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.5-to-1.

Now almost back to 100 percent heading into his junior season, Bellfield feels as though the room to grow is plentiful.

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UNLV guard Oscar Bellfield puts up a shot against UNI during their first round NCAA Basketball Tournament game Thursday, March 18, 2010 at the Ford Center in Oklahoma Ctiy. UNI won the game 69-66 on a last second three-point shot.

Ryan Greene: Looking back a little on last season, go back to that game against Northern Iowa. Obviously a tough loss for you guys. When you think back on that game as your first NCAA tournament experience, what will stand out to you?

Oscar Bellfield: I would just say the loss in general, losing by three points. The hopes were to make it to the next game, and then just looking back at it, the experience we had and enjoyed, even though we lost. We still had it in the back of our heads that we lost and didn't make it out of the first game. That's really going to be something big that we have to look forward to next year.

RG: Nobody was really saying much after the game, but looking back on it now a couple of months removed, what's that feeling like to lose in the first round of the NCAA tournament? You know, the whole season, all anybody wanted to talk about was, "Are they in the NCAA tournament? Are they out of the NCAA tournament?" Then you get there, it's built up so big and you lose the first game. What's that feeling like after it all happens?

OB: Just having the ups and downs, wondering if we would make it and then losing the first game in there wasn't something we were expecting. That's something we really had to take inside, know how that past year was and how people doubted us. How we didn't come out with a victory, but how a lot of people didn't even make it there. But it's an opportunity we need to take advantage of next time.

RG: When you got back, did you watch Northern Iowa then play Kansas?

OB: Yeah, I watched that game.

RG: You see them then beat Kansas. What did you think after that?

OB: Just that anything can happen. Anything is possible. As long as you play hard and don't give up, anything's bound to happen.

RG: You had to be a little surprised, right?

OB: Oh, definitely. But they were a really good team. They had good guards, an all-around team that was good. I knew they were gonna put up a challenge.

RG: On last year as a whole, looking at your numbers, the big thing that stood out — and it was pretty consistent all year — was your assist-to-turnover ratio. Is that something that after your freshman year you focused on? Not necessarily the numbers of it, but being more consistent and limiting turnovers?

OB: It was. My main thing, though, is just running the team and getting people involved. That's just what the result was.

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UNLV guard Oscar Bellfield signals sinking a 3-point shot against Louisville during the first half of a game on Nov. 28, 2009, at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Rebels upset the No. 16 Cardinals, 76-71.

RG: Do point guards take more pride in that number than anything else, maybe? I know guys don't get too hung up on numbers, but that's got to be something to take pride in, right?

OB: Oh, definitely. On top of that, you've still got to balance out the other things, like steals, maybe blocked shots and points. But I would say assists and turnovers are something you've got to make sure you're keeping consistent and to a respectable amount.

RG: So you think your showing there was respectable?

OB: Um, yeah, but I think I could have done even better. Even during bigger games. I know that in big games, my turnovers were a bit higher than other games. That's something I need to work on.

RG: Another thing we talked about a lot down the stretch was your knee. You bruised it up against BYU, and I remember after that game, a lot of people said it's one of those injuries that's just gonna kind of linger and not get a chance to fully heal after the season. You had arthroscopic surgery. Has it healed?

OB: It did limit me. I had the surgery about a month ago. I'm getting a lot stronger, rehabbing still, but it was a torn meniscus. It's not that bad now, but it's getting better and I'm staying on top of it.

RG: When you say it limited you, I know we talked about explosiveness, but what else did it actually limit?

OB: I would say my lateral movement, and then my reaction speed. I was slower at reacting in situations where other times I could get a steal or in a passing lane, but after that happened, I was slow pushing off of it.

RG: Are you playing again yet?

OB: I'm still rehabbing, but playing a little bit.

RG: When do you expect to be back at 100 percent?

OB: Probably a week or so.

RG: Looking forward to next year, the non-conference schedule just came out. Have you seen it?

OB: Yeah, I took a look at it.

RG: Anything stand out on there that gets you excited a little more? You've had some success against Louisville. Anything else?

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Oscar Bellfield goes up for the dunk during UNLVs season opener against Pittsburg State at the Thomas & Mack. on Nov. 14, 2009. The Rebels blew it open in the second half with a 91-52 victory.

OB: Kansas State (on Dec. 21 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.).

RG: Why's that?

OB: I mean, that was the game that ... I don't know. I felt we could have done a lot better (UNLV lost to Kansas State on Dec. 12 at the Orleans Arena, 95-80). Knowing how well they finished the year, that's just a game that will be huge for us.

RG: You, specifically, last year you talked about wanting to improve your 3-point shooting and cutting down on turnovers going into your sophomore year. What's the focus this year?

OB: Just going in and being more of a leader. Just more vocal, commanding and really being a threat offensively and getting my teammates even more involved.

RG: It seemed like guys responded well to you last year as an established leader on the team. Did you sense that?

OB: Yeah, but I feel like it can improve more.

RG: You're not really a naturally vocal guy on the floor, are you?

OB: No.

RG: Is it hard to force yourself to do that?

OB: At times, I don't even realize I'm not doing it. It's something that I have to adapt to still.

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Oscar Bellfield sits on his bag as the UNLV Rebels wait to check in at McCarran International Airport on Tuesday, March 16, 2010. The Rebels headed off to take on 9-seed Northern Iowa in Oklahoma City in the NCAA tournament.

RG: Expectations are already building up for next year. Fans have their expectations, but among the players, what are expectations like?

OB: Team expectations? Really it's just about using the summer to individually work on our weaknesses. Once we put that all together, improve our chemistry past what it was this year, we're basically the same team coming back, so our chemistry should be a lot stronger and we should compete in every game.

RG: Is having everyone back automatically a good thing? Or is it a situation where there can be complacency and guys can think, "Well, it worked last year and got us to the NCAA tournament." Or is there a genuine hunger to be deeper in the tournament?

OB: Oh, there will be a hunger. Last year, we really didn't do what we thought we could have done. We're going to be pushing each other. We're a competitive team and we'll make each other better. We'll be a better team because of it.

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  1. I have always felt Oscar is vastly underrated. What he has done as a true freshman and sophomore is just the beginning. My wife and I love this kid. Think he is going to have a great final two years with the program.

    Thanks for the interview, Ryan. U-N-L-V!!!

  2. Oscar has really turned into a solid playmaker. He does a nice job involving his teammates and yet picks his spots well scoring. Being healthy and getting some explosion back could make him a tremendous player for the Rebs. Very excited to see the progression. Runnin' Rebels!

  3. love the story, of course you know O is my favorite player so I really loved it. GO REBELS!

  4. Just work on your jumper this summer and become consistent.

  5. I still remember the early games last year, and O made huge strides in keeping UNLV in the games when they started falling behind and rallied in the 2nd halves. Great guy, and best of luck this next season. It will only get better!