UNLV basketball:

Rebels report card: Returners work back into rhythm with varying success

Anthony Marshall is already at an A-level while Mike Moser puts up a standard performance, at least for his standards

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV guard Anthony Marshall laughs at teammate Justin Hawkins after a possession against the University of Ottawa at Montpetit Hall in Ottawa, Ontario Sunday, August 19, 2012. UNLV won the game 89-76. The Runnin’ Rebels are in the midst of a four-game exhibition tour in Canada.

You already know their faces, and whether they like it or not, you already know what you think they bring to the team.

UNLV basketball’s five returning scholarship players are mostly household names, in some cases in homes far across the country. So last week’s undefeated trek across Canada wasn’t really about them as much as it was the newcomers.

Still, it was an opportunity to prove some people wrong (or right) as they prepare for their junior and senior seasons. Anthony Marshall and Mike Moser are transitioning to new positions. Carlos Lopez and Quintrell Thomas are out to prove they belong in the rotation. And Justin Hawkins wants to show he won’t be outworked on defense.

While the newcomers had to adjust to the Rebels’ speed, the returners were taxed with working their new teammates into the system as seamlessly as possible. It didn’t always look pretty, but there were moments that justified the enormous amount of attention this team has and will continue to receive as fall practice nears in October.

Before that day, the returners will have some time to assess their performances north of the border. Inspired by UNLV’s fall classes getting started on Monday, we decided to handle that ourselves by handing out some exhibition grades.

Who passed with flying colors? Who needs to hit the books (or the weights) harder? Below we have the vital stats, grades and explanations for the five Rebels who played on last year’s 26-9 team.

Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below.

Note: To read the report card for UNLV’s five newcomers, click here.

    • Anthony Marshall

      Senior guard

      Stat line: 13.8 ppg, 6 rpg, 19-33 overall, 3-5 3s, 14-19 FTs, 1.14 A/TO, 6 steals, 25.5 mpg

      Analysis: Marshall may not have sold everyone on his move to point guard — kind of hard to accomplish in four games against mostly lesser athletes — but he was nothing if not impressive in Canada.

      Marshall made key plays in the final minute against Carleton, including a steal and dunk that effectively ended the game, and he never seemed to take any possession off. He led the team in points, tied for the lead in rebounds and assists (8) and ranked second in field-goal percentage (57.6) and steals.

      On the court, this trip was mostly about getting the new guys time on the court and working them in with the returners. But Marshall, more than any other returner, made sure that you noticed he was there.

      He misses out on an A grade simply because it’s easier to be nit-picky with a senior than the newcomers, and you’d like to see better than a 1.14 assist-to-turnover ratio from your point guard.

      But there’s time to work on that. The important thing for the Rebels is Marshall seems determined to back up his words from this summer and help leave a legacy that lasts beyond his senior season.

      GRADE: A-

    • Justin Hawkins

      Senior guard

      Stat line: 7.5 ppg, 4 rpg, 10-26 overall, 5-14 3s, 5-5 FTs, 2.5 A/TO, 14 steals, 28.3 mpg

      Analysis: This grade could vary depending on the severity of the illness Hawkins was battling in Canada, but since word-of-mouth reports varied on that it’s settled on a solid B.

      No matter what was ailing Hawkins, it didn’t seem to affect his defense one bit. Arguably the Rebels’ best defender, Hawkins finished with 14 steals, or more than double the next closest player. He was aggressive with his man up to 35 feet away from the basket, and when UNLV used its full-court press he was a menace.

      The offense clearly wasn’t there, though. Hawkins air-balled at least three 3-point attempts and only Katin Reinhardt and Demetris Morant finished with lower shooting percentages from the field.

      No matter. Despite his illness, Hawkins led the team in minutes played and he never lacked for effort. The results in Canada may have been just off the mark, but all indications are Hawkins will be A-OK this year.

      GRADE: B

    • Carlos Lopez

      Junior forward

      Stat line: 9.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 14-22 overall, 10-15 FTs, 4 blocks, 17.5 mpg

      Analysis: Lopez’s rebounding numbers are a bit deceiving based on the number of offensive boards he grabbed off his own misses, but that actually makes his team-leading 64 percent shooting even more impressive.

      Lopez and Thomas had the most to gain of the returners on this trip, and Lopez did pretty well for himself. He finished with the same total points as Moser but accomplished it in five fewer minutes per game.

      While still showing a penchant for arguing too much with the referees and occasionally failing to get back on defense, Lopez was very active on the court. He made good use of his opportunities.

      His worst statistical game was the finale, in which he had six points on 2-of-4 shooting, three rebounds and two fouls in 22 minutes. When that’s a “bad” game, it was a pretty good trip.

      GRADE: B-

    • Quintrell Thomas

      Senior forward

      Stat line: 5.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 8-17 overall, 7-10 FTs, 2 blocks, 8 TOs, 18 mpg

      Analysis: Thomas didn’t do anything in Canada to hurt himself, nor did he really stand out.

      Against inferior frontcourts Thomas at times looked dominant. He’s shown flashes of that type of play in the past — the victory against Illinois in the United Center last year being a prime example — but there’s never been any consistency to it. A breakout game could easily be followed by an 0-for-4 day.

      For example, Thomas pulled down nine rebounds in the first and fourth games, but had just one and three, respectively, in the middle two. His minutes weren’t all that varied between the games, so that doesn’t explain the up and down.

      He’s going to need to find the key to more of those ups in the upcoming months or he’s going to have a hard time staying in the rotation, especially when sophomore Khem Birch becomes eligible in December.

      GRADE: C+

    • Mike Moser

      Junior forward

      Stat line: 9.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 15-36 overall, 4-13 3s, 4-4 FTs, 6 steals, 4 blocks, 12 TOs, 1 foul out, 22.8 mpg

      Analysis: Kind of like freshman Daquan Cook, you can take away anything you want in Moser’s performance.

      People who believe he will resemble the force of nature who helped UNLV storm out of the gates and ranked in the top 10 in rebounding in the nation for much of the season can say these were just exhibitions. Moser’s in a new position, but he doesn’t really have much to prove at this juncture. He’s going to be a factor in the rotation, and in the second game he looked more assertive and pulled down eight rebounds.

      Those who believe Moser’s closer to the player who all but disappeared down the stretch last year could say this was more of the same. He attempted the second most shots but barely made the fourth most, and 31 percent behind the three-point line doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in his move to the wing. Add in 12 turnovers — that’s three per game — and you’ve got a recipe for mediocrity.

      Canada didn’t provide any definitive answers on Moser’s role this year, so for now it seems it could go in a lot of different directions.

      GRADE: C

    Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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