Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Wednesday, May 29, 2013 | 2 a.m.
- Freshman guard Reinhardt will transfer from UNLV
- Rebel gets up-close look at the teams that may select him in June’s NBA Draft
- Rebels basketball adds class of 2015 guard to list of scholarship offers
- UNLV’s Moser says he will transfer to Oregon
- Anthony Bennett needs shoulder surgery; draft stock not expected to slide
- UNLV headlines the field at 2013 Las Vegas Classic
- LDS missionary eager to begin UNLV basketball career
- Proposed Thomas & Mack Center upgrades could cost $60 million
- All UNLV men's basketball coverage
Dave Rice isn’t out right now looking for a player to grab his ball and play for the Rebels this season. Despite the sudden departure of Katin Reinhardt, who ranked second in shots and minutes last season, Rice is content with the group he has now and content to keep that scholarship open for a possible midyear transfer.
That group has a very difficult task in front of it as the bulk of UNLV’s 2012-13 production has walked out the door for one destination or another. Three Rebels — Anthony Marshall, Justin Hawkins and Quintrell Thomas — are out of eligibility while another trio — Anthony Bennett (NBA), Mike Moser (Oregon) and Reinhardt — left for either the pros or another college destination.
What they left behind is an uncertain future for the remaining players, which include a group of six who have never played a minute for UNLV. What are those guys going to have to replace, and who’s most likely to rise to the occasion? There aren’t any definitive answers yet, but there are certainly some clues.
Interpersonal issues aside, you could create a pretty decent team out of the six departing Rebels. There’s one player who could man at least one of the five positions, plus a backup who could fill in for a couple of different spots.
Overall, the six former Rebels accounted for 71 percent (1,774) of UNLV’s points in the 2012-13 season while using 70 percent (4,934) of the total minutes. The group also dished out 77 percent (430) of the assists and grabbed 62 percent (869) of the rebounds. That was going to be tough to replace even before Reinhardt’s departure.
The Rebels also lost six players after Rice’s first season, though that was easier to make up for. Since the transfers from that group — Reggie Smith and Karam Mashour — were both role players at the end of the bench, their departures didn’t have the same impact. That group accounted for 44 percent (1,164) of the 2011-12 season's points while using 46 percent (3,298) of the total minutes.
The incoming class that included Reinhardt and Bennett easily made up for that. Whether you believe the next recruiting class can do the same depends on how ready you think a few former Division I players will be to reacclimate to this level.
What’s coming in?
Last year, Bennett was the clear star of the class, and as a one-and-done candidate, the staff started to prepare for life without him before he even suited up. It should come as little surprise then that the best breakout candidate from the group of six who’ve never played a minute for UNLV has already been on campus for a year.
UConn transfer Roscoe Smith’s advantage isn’t solely his time spent practicing with the Rebels, though that’s certainly a factor. Two years ago, Moser burst onto the scene after sitting on the bench for a season.
That situation was different because Moser sat for Lon Kruger and played for Rice. Working with the same staff would seem to be an advantage for Roscoe Smith, as would the giant hole in production that either graduated or walked out the door.
UNLV is going to need a leader, preferably somebody already on the roster. All signs point to this being Bryce Dejean-Jones’ team with Khem Birch providing some leadership by example. But talk to anybody around the program and within the first few minutes, you’ll hear about how big a role Roscoe Smith might shoulder this season.
Physically, he’s very similar to Moser — a couple pounds here, an inch there — and possesses a similar offensive skill set. Roscoe Smith probably attacks the rim a little more than Moser, though until he steps back on the court, that’s only speculation. He played predominantly on the perimeter for the practice team in order to work on his jump shot and ball handling, both of which improved throughout the year.
Put simply, Roscoe Smith is an early favorite for the Mountain West Conference Newcomer of the Year. And although there are a couple of four-star players in the rest of the group, he’s the best bet to have an instant impact.
The other players with previous Division I experience are guards Jelan Kendrick and DeVille Smith. Kendrick, a 6-foot-7 junior who can play point guard or the wing, took a circuitous route to UNLV, enrolling at Ole Miss, Memphis and Indian Hills Community College before finding his way to Las Vegas. Back in March, he and Roscoe Smith starred for the USA Elite Under-23 team at a tournament in France.
DeVille Smith is a speedy point guard with a nice shot who started at Mississippi State and then went to a junior college because of a coaching change. He’s probably the current favorite to be the opening-game starter at point guard, though Kendrick, incoming freshman Kendall Smith and returner Daquan Cook will all get a shot at it.
Kendrick was a four-star recruit and McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school, but his history suggests he’s just as likely to bust as he is boom with the Rebels. Findlay Prep product Chris Wood is the other four-star player in the class, and he will immediately compete with redshirt freshman Demetris Morant, a former rival from Bishop Gorman, for whatever interior minutes are left behind Birch and Carlos Lopez-Sosa.
Rounding out the group is Dantley Walker, the Nevada high school all-time leading scorer who’s returning from a two-year LDS mission. No one is sure what to expect after the long layoff, and that plus the crowded backcourt makes Walker a likely redshirt candidate.
Who will replace Reinhardt?
The Rebels were going to have to count on a lot of different players to step up into new roles this season. Reinhardt’s departure just puts a little more pressure on those guys while freeing up some minutes.
The biggest beneficiaries could be DeVille Smith and Kendall Smith. While Dejean-Jones can play the 2 or the 3, he was already likely to play more 2, and that’s now assuredly the case. That move could open some minutes at 3 for Roscoe Smith (who can play the 3 and 4) and Kendrick.
But Dejean-Jones isn’t going to play 40 minutes a game, and the most likely guys to spell him are the remaining Smiths. DeVille Smith is primarily a point guard, but his scoring potential — 16.7 ppg on 52 percent shooting last year — is good enough to be a shooting guard, so long as he can get his shot off (he's 5-foot-11 and will be guarded by taller players most games). And Kendall Smith was a great scorer in high school who could thrive in a limited role as a true freshman.
Reinhardt’s development was going to be a major storyline of this season for UNLV. Instead, it will simply be how the remaining pieces develop without him.