UNLV BASKETBALL:

In shape after a long road back, Kendall Wallace ready to gun … and run

First-year coach Dave Rice sees senior guard as an all-around playmaker within his system

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Justin M. Bowen

Kendall Wallace and the UNLV bench celebrate after a 3-point shot during the finals of the Mountain West Conference Tournament on March 13, 2010 against San Diego State at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV lost, 55-45.

On Thursday morning, UNLV's men's basketball team will take its one-mile run test.

For guards, the time that must be met is 5:45.

If you'd have put that challenge to senior guard Kendall Wallace six months ago, he'd likely have laughed until he cried. Now, though, it feels reasonable.

"This is definitely the strongest I've ever been since I've been here," he said following Tuesday's final conditioning workout of the fall. "I feel healthy. It feels great to be back in shape and able to run.

"It's nice to know that you can run all day and finally catch that second wind."

Wallace returned to practice with his UNLV teammates late in the 2010-11 season in the late stages of his recovery from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He visibly labored, struggling to get back into shape after the process of returning to the floor left him with some added heft and rusty lungs.

The fruits of his efforts over the summer months, however, are easily visible as his delayed senior campaign draws closer.

When Wallace says he's as strong as he's ever been in his days at UNLV, one look at him will make anyone a believer. He said that in the offseason, he upped the maximums on each of his different lifts by anywhere from 20 to 30 pounds.

The spark that set off his productive summer in the gym was the experience of being taken down by the injury itself, which Wallace suffered in a pick-up game late last summer. It gradually intensified as he scaled more hurdles during the course of his comeback.

"There was a point (this summer) where I was able to play without the (knee) brace," he recalled. "Once I played without the brace two times and was making every cut and wasn't worried about it anymore, I got over that mental hump, and it helped me physically.

"I would say the injury has given me a lot more perspective on the game. It allowed me to step back and really appreciate it for what it was and how lucky I am to be out there playing. I think there will just be more passion for it (this season), being thankful that I'm out there and able to play after that. You'll see me with a smile on my face a little bit more."

Wallace's physique may look a bit altered, having shed the weight he gained while in recovery, but what hasn't changed over the summer is the effectiveness of his outside jumper. Even late last season, before he could practice with his teammates at full-speed, he'd spend time after practices shooting for long stretches on his own.

If anything, it appears that his impact off of the bench could be expanded within first-year coach Dave Rice's new uptempo offensive system.

"I think everyone knows what a good outside shooter he is, but the thing maybe people aren't aware of is he is really, really good at moving without the ball," Rice said. "Also, he's a really good passer. He was a really good playmaker in high school. As much as his reputation has been as a great outside shooter, he's a really good playmaker. That's a huge part of what we do is give guys freedom to make plays, and he has the ability to make some."

Full practices don't begin until next Saturday, but in the two hours per week the team has been allowed to work out under the staff's supervision until then, transition offense has been a major focal point. In those drills, Wallace has displayed his knack for finding open teammates in a hurry along with that same sweet jumper from long range.

In no way does he look like just a guy who's there to knock down threes.

Wallace labels it as an "equal opportunity" offense, and hinted that skilled shooters might find even more success in up-and-down games, pulling the trigger on shots without thinking twice about it.

"He had some of his better games against us at BYU, so we were aware of him, and he'll be really important to the efficiency of our offense," Rice added. "We played him with no help, tried to guard him, always find him on the floor. We weren't always successful with it. He came into the game numerous times and really changed the game.

"He makes his teammates better by virtue of just being out there. It often gives opportunities to other guys."

As a sophomore and junior, Wallace played against BYU five times. In those games, he averaged 7.6 points per game (his career average is 4.8), while knocking down nine of 19 3-point attempts.

He also seems to be more than fond of the idea of playing a style similar to what BYU rolled out every night while Rice was pulling the strings on the Cougars' bench as their unofficial offensive coordinator.

"You've seen it work so well for BYU, and they didn't have the athleticism that we have. They had the shooters, but we have the athleticism," he said. "We feel like we can add a little bit extra to that offense."

After a tough, eye-opening year in the shadows and a grueling comeback, Wallace feels confident now that when it comes to running, he'll be able to keep up.

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  1. Can't wait to hear the sweet sound of public address announcer Dick Calvert say "Three point goal....Kendall Wallace!"

  2. I can hear "THREE!!" already. Great to have that outside shot back. I think last season we really struggled from outside without a consistent 3-pt shooter.

  3. Getting excited for the season--looks like we'll have a lot to cheer about.

    Wish we did in Rebel football.

    For far too long the progression of UNLV's football season into basketball has been "the darkest hour comes just before the dawn"...

  4. I am so amped for this season! I will be in my usual spot in the student section! Rebels!

    www.reddit.com/r/UNLVrunninrebels

  5. Consistency is key for Wallace.

    The talent is there. He just needs to believe in himself.

    I'm hopeful that Coach Rice's methodology will bring the best out of him.