Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Thanks to a new NCAA rule, UNLV could hold its first basketball practice Friday. Rebels coach Dave Rice isn’t having the first “official” practice until Oct. 7 because, like every other coach in the country, he’s trying to figure out the best way to utilize this extra time.
“I like the rule change,” Rice said, “but I think all of us coaches are uncertain exactly how it will go.”
Here’s the change: The NCAA moved the first possible practice date ahead two weeks on the calendar. The start date is different depending on the school’s first regular-season game but everyone may begin practicing a full six weeks before that first game.
For the Rebels, who open the season Nov. 8 at home against Portland State, that means Friday. Over that 42-day span, UNLV is allowed 30 practices. The Scarlet and Gray Showcase at the Thomas & Mack Center will be Thursday, Oct. 17.
During the summer, coaches get two hours per week in the gym with their players. Once practice begins, they get 20 hours per week, so it’s easy to see why coaches like the change.
The concern is what they’ll do with that extra time. College basketball can be a long and tiring season as it is. Moving the start date ahead increases the risk of some teams burning out before the stretch run.
That’s why Rice is delaying the first “official” practice. Until Oct. 7, the team will focus on conditioning and group drills while also spending extra time working on its defense. These sessions still count toward the 30 UNLV is allowed before its first game but should be a little more low-key than a full practice.
“When everybody gets taped up and we’re into our regular routine, it’s just a different feeling,” Rice said.
He wants to postpone that feeling a little longer while still getting the advantage of extra time to work with seven newcomers who haven’t played with or spent a season practicing with the team. In that regard, the additional practice time comes at a perfect time for UNLV.
Guys like junior college transfers DeVille Smith and Jelan Kendrick are expected to be key pieces this season. They’ve been playing with their teammates for months, but doing so with coaches providing more input will determine just how large their roles may be.
Any rule change is an opportunity. Some coaches will take advantage of this and others may end up hurting themselves with it. Either way, it’s an opportunity they wanted and only time will tell how it affects the Rebels.
A couple more practice notes:
• Rice said he thinks the last 30 minutes of that Oct. 7 practice will be open to the public. The Rebels will scrimmage during that time.
• Another uncertainty with the extra time is when to give the Rebels days off. Rice said, as usual, the team would take off every Sunday. The other six off days are something the coaching staff is still trying to schedule.