UNLV basketball:

Style likely to trump substance in Rebels’ Scarlet/Gray Showcase

The Rebels want to put on a show tonight at 7:30. Just don’t judge the scrimmage too harshly

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Steve Marcus

Kendall Smith, left, covers Kevin Olekaibe during the first UNLV basketball practice of the season at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center Monday, Oct. 7, 2013.

A great game it’s not, but the Rebels don’t think that’s why people should show up for tonight’s Scarlet/Gray Showcase at the Thomas & Mack Center.

“It’s entertainment for the fans,” junior Jelan Kendrick said. “Hopefully we can give them something to look forward to during the season.”

Kendrick is one of seven newcomers who will wear a Rebel uniform in front of fans for the first time tonight starting at 7:30 p.m. The others are freshmen Jamal Aytes, Kendall Smith, Dantley Walker and Christian Wood, junior DeVille Smith and senior Kevin Olekaibe. Wood, who's still recovering from a broken finger, will only be able to watch tonight. The Rebels also have now eligible players Demetris Morant, a sophomore, and junior Roscoe Smith.

The schedule for this year’s event, which is free to attend, includes a legends game, a scrimmage between this year’s team and a 3-point contest in lieu of last year’s dunk contest. The Lady Rebels will also be introduced, and a few of them will compete as a team with the selected Rebels in the 3-point contest. The men's participants will be Olekaibe, Walker and freshman Charles Rushman.

Though that contest and the legends game are fun for fans to see, the scrimmage is the main attraction. Junior forward Khem Birch hopes people try not to take too much from it.

“I’m looking forward to it but I wouldn’t judge anything off of that,” he said.

The defenses will be slow, he said, and it wouldn’t be fair to expect the players to be in game condition yet. Of course, about a minute earlier, the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year created some expectations and a reason to look at the scrimmage critically.

“It’s kind of surprising. I didn’t think I was going to be as good offensively as I am so far,” Birch said.

In the offseason, Birch has worked on his overall offensive arsenal, including facing the basket and post moves. The biggest development, he said, was being able to handle the ball much better.

“Last year, I was kind of scared to take two dribbles,” Birch said. “I can do more with the ball on the floor than I used to.”

Birch’s offense will be one thing for fans to look for. Others include the effectiveness of the full-court press, DeVille Smith’s play at point guard and the standout among the team’s four freshmen.

On Monday, UNLV coach Dave Rice’s predictions for tonight were blurred by his disappointment in what he thought was a sloppy practice. The Rebels weren’t good enough in their effort or execution, he said.

So in other words, it was a practice in October. Just like the players don’t want to be judged by a glorified practice tonight, Rice wouldn’t want them judged off Monday. Getting this group full of new faces from that point to a successful team is what his third year at the helm will be all about.

“It’s a fine line between being patient and holding them to a high standard when they make the same mistake over and over,” Rice said.

Some of those mistakes will be on display tonight, as will some highlights. All in all, the players hope you’re entertained.

NOTES

• Wood recently had the cast removed for his broken finger and is expected to participate in the scrimmage. However, he won't be able to participate in the 3-point contest after originally being in that field.

• Olekaibe is allowed to participate even though he hasn’t heard back from the NCAA on his transfer waiver, and sophomore Savon Goodman will play even though he will sit the entire season for his off-the-court issues this offseason.

• Fans are encouraged to attend the UNLV volleyball team’s match against No. 12 Colorado State at 6 p.m. in the Cox Pavilion. Entrance is free.

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

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