The calendar flipped over to August yesterday. That means it's time for football? Nope, not this year. Not at UNLV.
Dave Rice and his crew will keep the headlines in even in the summer time as they kick off practice this Saturday for an upcoming trip to Canada that will feature four games.
What's the benefit of getting this early of a start?
For Rice and his staff, being able to work as a full team has many advantages that we will look at:
RUN, RUN, RUN - This is an area that Rice wants to exploit against his opposition. He expects his roster to be in excellent shape and wear out foes with constant attacking.
The summer months can be lax at times for basketball players. They know that November is their key month to be ready and that being in game shape right now isn't necessary.Just being able to run through pick-ups and the occasional individual session is good enough shape.
That's about to change.
You know that Rice is going to push these guys to the brink now so they know what to expect in November, especially the younger Rebel members.
Due to UNLV's reliance on its ability to run, this may be the area that gets the biggest impact from the early practice sessions. I wouldn't be surprised if, at least, a quarter or more of the practices are dedicated simply to being in better condition.
If the Rebels are in as good of shape as Rice hopes they will be, it will be that much easier to stay in that shape up until the fall practice begins in October.
Just another edge UNLV will have this season.
SCIENTIFIC APPROACH - The number one worry of any team with this much individual talents is how will they respond whenever they are all thrown together as a unit.
Will they be able to co-exist? Will certain players dominate the ball? Will the effort be there to work as one and make themselves stronger in the process?
The summer is certainly a better time to find out what kinks you may have to be working through than the first week of the regular season.
It's the scary aspect of having this much talent. You are asking so many players, which have all been stars already in some sort of fashion, to take a backseat to the team concept and trust one another in a way that they've never been asked to do. Sure, Katin Reinhardt and Anthony Bennett played on high school powerhouses, but they were still the focal points whenever they were in the game.
Sharing the ball, learning each other's strengths and weaknesses, while also getting better as an individual has to be the goal of each and every roster member.
These guys are saying the right thing at this point. We want to play together and win a national championship has been overheard. Now, they get to prove that it isn't just words. Their actions will be telling, even this early on in the chemistry building process.
This chemistry is going to be uber important whenever it comes to end of the game situations. Will the Rebels become a one-on-one show or will they showcase all their unique talents and work the defense enough to get a quality look at the hoop?
A best case scenario would be for a couple of these games in Canada to come down to the final few minutes. I don't know how much four straight blowouts would accomplish. A couple feel good games and a couple that leave a few doubts are probably in the best interest of the staff.
GETTING TO THE POINT - The point guard position is by far the most interesting to watch and see what transpires.
Anthony Marshall is a senior and leader, but is he a real point guard? He's going to get the nod at the spot and has all the abilities to have a monster season scoring and dishing with this being his group.
In fact, if there isn't a proven back-up by the end of this tour, you could probably expect Marshall to log more minutes than any other Rebel in the coming season.
The options right now are senior combo guard Justin Hawkins and freshmen DaQuan Cook and Katin Reinhardt.
Cook is the only pure point man of the trio. His first instinct is to make a play for someone else. Reinhardt is a scorer with the capability to create for his teammates because of his high level of skill with the ball in his hands. Hawkins has improved in all facets since coming to UNLV and could possibly be the best option at this time to handle the responsibility.
Look for a lot of combinations during practice and these preseason games where you see all of these guys running the point guard position. It will be a good chance for Rice to see who runs the offense with the least amount of hiccups.
Whatever happens, it's going to be fun to be able to talk hoops before the school season even begins. There will be questions answered, as well as plenty of new ones asked. And that may be the biggest benefit of all. Rice will get to know the intricacies of his roster before the rest of the nation does theirs. He will spend the next two months after this trip figuring out what needs to be done to fix any problems or enhance the strengths.
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