unlv basketball:

Rebels’ last dress rehearsal before opener is Wednesday against Dixie State

Freshman Demetris Morant, a strong candidate to redshirt, likely to play his last significant minutes of the season

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV forward Demetris Morant soars to the hoop during the dunk contest at the team’s First Look scrimmage Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012 at the Thomas & Mack.

There will be a game plan, including film study. There will be a team meal and pregame routines. And there will be fans who at this point don't care that the outcome doesn’t matter. They just want to see No. 18 UNLV in action.

The Rebels host Dixie State at 7 p.m. today at the Thomas & Mack Center in their only exhibition game. For a team that has made several debuts already — such as a trip to Canada and October’s Scarlet/Gray Showcase — this is another chance to put its best foot forward in front of an adoring audience, some of whom will be seeing the Rebels play for the first time.

Last Saturday, UNLV played a closed scrimmage at UCLA, and although he couldn’t get into many specifics because of NCAA rules, coach Dave Rice said he wasn’t satisfied with the performance.

“We didn’t play with a sense of urgency we needed to play with for being ranked that high in the preseason,” Rice said Saturday.

Rice said he’s going to treat today’s exhibition like a regular season game. From the opponent preparation to eating as a team, it’s going to be a dress rehearsal for when the real thing starts Monday against Northern Arizona.

“Especially for our new guys, they need to see what game day feels like here,” Rice said.

Rice added he’s going to coach as if it’s a regular game, except a few guys may get more minutes than they would in the regular season. One of those is freshman Demetris Morant, a Bishop Gorman High School grad who’s unlikely to play at all this season after Wednesday.

Morant is UNLV’s top candidate to redshirt. He needs time to develop his offensive game and, with a logjam of experience and talent ahead of him, it’s unlikely he would see the court anyway. Rice said he would meet with Morant on Thursday to discuss his options.

“No final decision has been made and I’ll never make a guy redshirt, but I think there’s a possibility that’s in his best interest,” Rice said. “I think he has a chance to be a very good player for us, but it might be best for his development this year to contemplate the possibility of redshirting.”

Freshman guard Daquan Cook is another guy who’s unlikely to see much playing time because of the guys in front of him, but the Rebels probably can’t afford to redshirt two more guys. They have 13 scholarship players, but one (Roscoe Smith) must redshirt due to transfer rules and another (Khem Birch) isn’t eligible until December. Take away one more redshirt, presumably Morant, and you have just 10 players, including three guys — Bryce Dejean-Jones, Carlos Lopez-Sosa and Bryce Dejean-Jones — who have recently dealt with injuries. All three practiced Monday, though.

Rice said those injuries have “skewed the process” a little, making it more difficult to tell how many guys he has at his disposal at any given time. Wednesday night should help answer that as Dejean-Jones is cleared to play. In early October, he broke two bones in his left hand; the cast was removed late last week. After Monday night’s practice, Dejean-Jones was holding the hand and grimacing a bit, but he’s still going to see what he can do with it.

“I’m hopeful he can play 15 minutes,” Rice said. “It’s just a matter of him getting confidence. He’s worked hard, but he’s not in basketball shape because he hasn’t done five-on-five basketball things in a month.”

That will change Wednesday, and by the end so will everything else because once it’s over, the games start for real.

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

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  1. Does anyone know if there is a internet broadcast of the Dixie game tonight?

  2. Rebel-net reported as per the UNLV SID that it will be broadcast on unlvrebels.com.

  3. The broadcast on unlvrebels.com is not free though.