UNLV basketball:

Rebels report card: Several newcomers receive high marks

Freshman Savon Goodman’s super-efficient performances earn him the highest grade among UNLV’s newcomers in Canadian tour

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV’s Daquan Cook helps up teammate Savon Goodman during their game 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.

For the dozens of UNLV basketball fans who followed the Rebels to Ottawa and Montreal, the four-game exhibition tour last week was like getting a glimpse at the rough cut of a movie months before the grand opening. Or as Matt Damon’s character in “Ocean’s 13” might say, it was like an out-of-town preview.

And the stars of that first look were the newcomers — four freshman and one sophomore — who weren’t on scholarship or eligible last year. This was the chance to see what the bulk of UNLV coach Dave Rice’s highly touted recruiting class (plus Bryce Dejean-Jones) could do with the five scholarship returners from last season.

The result was a 4-0 record against teams of varying (and occasionally questionable) talent levels, and enough game and practice tape for the coaching staff to work with until fall practices begin in October.

What will the Rice and his coaches see on that tape? Mostly, they will see things to work on. Conditioning was Rice’s No. 1 priority moving forward, especially for the five new guys who just got their first somewhat real taste of how Rice wants to run things this year.

There’s a lot, both good and bad, to take away from the newcomers’ performances. With that in mind, and with classes at UNLV starting up Monday, we’re handing out grades for the players’ trip to Canada.

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 made their debuts last week.

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

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

    • Savon Goodman

      Freshman forward

      Stat line: 11.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 17-32 overall, 0-3 3s, 12-19 FTs, 8 TOs, 17.5 mpg

      Analysis: Nobody’s stock rose higher in the past week than Goodman’s.

      First, the Philadelphia freshman went into Canada and put together the best stretch of games of any of the newcomers. After struggling and looking a bit lost in the opener against Carleton, Goodman came up big in the first half against Ottawa and continued to bully his way into the paint in the final three games. Over four games he averaged the fourth most points and fourth most rebounds while playing the second fewest minutes.

      At 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds, Goodman already has the size to be effective this year. He’s a physical player and seems to be very coachable. UNLV coach Dave Rice already raves about him, and Goodman showed some perseverance by bouncing back from a forgettable opener — two points, two fouls and two turnovers in 11 minutes — and carrying the Rebels’ offense early against the Gee-Gees when no one else stepped up. He needs to improve on those turnover numbers, but that’s not a big concern at this point.

      Then came Friday, when the NCAA denied UConn transfer Roscoe Smith’s legislative relief waiver, which means Smith will redshirt this season and compete as a junior in 2013-14. That decision leaves room for Goodman in the rotation, and judging by his play in Canada, that’s a good thing for the Rebels this year and in the future.

      “I’m just trying to be part of something big,” Goodman said last Sunday.

      It looks like he’s going to get his shot.

      GRADE: A

    • Bryce Dejean-Jones

      Sophomore guard

      Stat line: 13.5 ppg, 6 rpg, 20-44 overall, 4-15 3s, 10-19 FTs, 0.78 A/TO, 5 steals, 14 fouls, 26 mpg

      Analysis: Dejean-Jones has been a known entity for the past year at UNLV. Even last year, when he was the practice player fans dreamed of being eligible already, the talk around the program was that Dejean-Jones could lead the Rebels in scoring this year.

      Based on four games in Canada, that’s entirely possible, if not likely.

      Dejean-Jones has got a good attacking first step on offense, and as the games wore on he looked more and more comfortable in Rice’s running system. He struggled in the final game, as did most of the team, but that can be chalked up to an illness he and senior guard Justin Hawkins battled for parts of the trip.

      The biggest negative takeaway is probably the personal foul count. While he didn’t foul out of any games, Dejean-Jones had at least three in all four of them, and four fouls put him on the bench for a key stretch in the final minutes against Carleton.

      Of course, Rice only supported the feeling about Dejean-Jones’ importance to this team by subbing the sophomore back in for the final seconds.

      The outcome was in doubt, and Rice wanted Dejean-Jones on the court. That says a lot.

      Fans have been desperate for some toughness or a bit of a mean streak on this year’s team. So far, Dejean-Jones has lived up to his billing as the player to bring in that attitude.

      GRADE: A-

    • Katin Reinhardt

      Freshman guard

      Stat line*: 13 ppg, 2 rpg, 8-25 overall, 5-14 3s, 5-5 FTs, 3 A/TO, 4 steals, 27.5 mpg

      *Stats from the first two games only. All other players appeared in all four games

      Analysis: Debuts don’t get much better than Reinhardt’s 19 points on 6-of-14 shooting against Carleton last Saturday. UNLV needed a catalyst, and the freshman from Mater Dei High in California went on a personal 9-0 run to help set up the Rebels’ most dramatic and most impressive victory of the trip. It was everything the coaching staff, teammates and fans hoped for.

      Then there wasn’t much else to see. Reinhardt played 27 minutes against Ottawa on Sunday and failed to find the same shooting stroke, going 2-for-11 from the field, including 1-for-6 behind the three-point line. Then, after making a nice play to block a shot, Reinhardt fell hard on his left knee, effectively ending his trip.

      The good news is that it doesn’t appear to be anything that will affect Reinhardt long term. In fact, he probably could have played in the finale against McGill, but there was no reason to risk it.

      The coaching staff believes the real Reinhardt is closer to that first game than the second one. As a freshman, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle.

      The best thing Reinhardt has going for him — other than an athletic 6-5 frame at the guard spots — is his ability to shoot in tight spaces. He doesn’t need much room to get up a shot, and his high-arching 3s look good even when they’re bad.

      GRADE: B-

    • Daquan Cook

      Freshman guard

      Stat line: 3.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 6-13 overall, 1-3 3s, 1-1 FTs, 2 A/TO, 18 mpg

      Analysis: Much like Goodman, Cook looked lost in his first game as a Rebel. Honestly, anything else would have been a surprise, though. Running the offense is harder than just knowing your role in it.

      Cook is going to need some time in the program to become an effective guard — both to learn the system and to add some size — but it was positive to see him gradually improve throughout the week.

      Like most freshman guards would in his position, Cook made at least one head-scratching pass in each game. He tried to fit a lot of passes into space that just wasn’t there and other times he just wasn’t on the same page as the other guys on the court.

      The standard for guard play on this year’s team is so high that Cook will always suffer by comparison. And that’s OK. Nobody is expecting Cook to come in and take over the team right away.

      Whatever you think of Cook’s role in the program this year or long term, you could find evidence to support your side in his Canada performances. There was enough positives and negatives to go around.

      GRADE: C-

    • Demetris Morant

      Freshman forward

      Stat line: 2.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 4-11 overall, 2-4 FTs, 7 blocks, 12.8 mpg

      Analysis: He got a dunk on his birthday, but not much else went great for Morant in Canada.

      He saw the least amount of court time by more than five minutes per game and despite being a better athlete than arguably every big man he played against, pulled down just 1.5 rebounds per game.

      The blocks, obviously, are nice, but they would be much more valuable paired with another asset, most likely rebounding or passing out of the post for assists.

      The book on Morant coming into the season was that his offense was going to need a lot of work, and Canada backed that up. Morant went into the trip as the most likely candidate to redshirt and that looks even more assured now. UNLV has talent in the frontcourt and Morant could use the year to get better in practice.

      His athleticism is undeniable and it could be a huge weapon down the road. But first, Morant needs some time to work on his craft.

      A year under assistant coach Stacey Augmon’s tutelage and daily practices against the likes of Anthony Bennett, Khem Birch, Quintrell Thomas and Carlos Lopez could do wonders for him.

      GRADE: D+

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

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    1. I dunno if I'd go as far as giving Morant a D+ and Cook a C-. They are both role players on the team. Morant can improve on his offensive game and get better around the rim, and stats don't always reflect what each player does on the court (such as boxing out so others can grab the boards). Cook is a true point in that he can create for others. He needs to work on his passing and decision making when passing, but he's not going to be an offensive weapon.

    2. Agree wholeheartedly with the analysis on Goodman, Dejean-Jones, and Reinhardt. I really am excited about Cook as well. Cook may have looked a little overwhelmed at times, however, he will be valuable this year. Certainly the one possible trouble spot is at point. Anthony can play the one but it by no means is his natural position, same for Katin. Cook looks like a pass first point guard who will be able to get some minutes off the bench and focus on running the offense. With so many weapons and guys that can get their own shot, he just needs to get them the ball. I love this recruiting class. Coach Rice did a great job addressing the needs of last year's team, and filled every position. Can't wait until AB comes into the fold. Keep salavating over the youtube clips. Runnin' Rebels!

    3. I watched the Desert Reign games and I came to the quick conclusion that we are getting a very nice surprise in Savon Goodman... we're gonna love this guy, and the Canada games did nothing to change my opinion on that. Toughness, a soft touch around the rim, athleticism - love his game and the hole he fills for the Rebels!

      I agree with all the rest of the analysis as well. However, I may not have given such low grades for Morant or Cook, simply because I don't think they did anything to hurt the team. Perfection? No, but I think the grades were harsh. I'd put both on my list of red-shirts for the season, and help them develop. They have potential.

      At the point, I may be leaning way forward, but I predict Marshall will lead the league in assists, and he'll be in the top 3-4 in scoring for the team by the time its all said and done - maybe even better. Hawkins can back him up @ pg, starting immediately, and KR will fall into a supporting role if necessary over time. No worries for the position in my mind, except for the idea of an injury or two... that could be a problem.