5 Questions Facing Rebels As Practice Starts
Las Vegas, NV
The official start date for practice is here and all across the country teams are preparing to shape their seasons. Like everyone else in college basketball these days, the Rebels have had to rebuild this year, with a combination of recruits and transfers. Needless to say, the roster looks a lot different than last year’s squad that won 19 games. Will it result in more? Only time will tell. Right now let’s look at 5 questions facing the 23-24 squad.
1) Will They Have Enough Shooting? – This is going to be questions 1, 2, and 3. Last year the Rebels had Justin Webster as the only consistent 3-point threat. He shot over 46% from the field. The only other players to shoot over 35% have either transferred or graduated. This year the Rebels added Keylan Boone a proven three-point shooter who shot 41% from behind the arc against Pacific. They also have freshman Dedan Thomas Jr. who was a good shooter from the PG spot in high school. In addition to them, Isaiah Cottrell should also help space the floor. He only shot 31% at West Virginia, however, he made 15 threes which would be exactly 15 more than any Rebel Big man made last year.
2) How Long Will It Take For Dedan Thomas Jr. to Adjust? – Not only is Thomas a freshman, but he reclassed up in order to join the team for the 2023-24 season. Make no mistake the PG is going to go through some growing pains, however, he’ll have the keys to the car right out the gate. The quicker he gets comfortable, the quicker the Rebels take off.
3) How Much Offensive Production Will They Get From The Frontcourt? – Last year it was extremely difficult for the Rebels to score in the paint, essentially turning them into a one-dimensional team. Last year, they got 10.4 ppg from their trio of bigs, which was .2 points less than transfer Kalib Boone’s average last season at Oklahoma St. In addition to Boone, they will have the aforementioned Cottrell and Oklahoma transfer Jalen Hill in the frontcourt. The latter averaged 9.7 ppg in the Big 12 last season.
4) Where Are The Thieves? Last year the Rebels had 291 total steals on the season. 102 of them came from EJ Harkless and Keshon Gilbert. A lot of the Rebel’s offense was predicated on their defense last season, and much of the same will be expected, especially in the early stages. The question will be, which players will step into that role as a defensive ace. My Darkhorse candidate is Shane Nowell, the 6’7 athletic wing, is the prototypical college 3 and D guy, and he played well down the stretch last season.
5) Is This A Tournament Team? – It’s really tough to tell, the first week of practice, however on Paper the Rebels look as if they have a better roster. The issue will be if they can win enough quality non-conference games to give themselves a shot at an at-large bid. The Mountain West will be brutal as usual but should benefit UNLV’s case if they can make a top-half showing, after entering league play with a strong non-conference record. Overall a victory over Creighton or St Mary’s is the bare minimum they will need to even consider at large play.
Bruce Williams is an NCAA Certified Scout who covers basketball in Nevada.
He is a UNLV Insider for the Runnin Rebel Report.