Katin Reinhardt's freshman campaign didn't materialize exactly the way he had envisioned it, but that hasn't derailed the faith he had when he made the commitment to the Runnin' Rebels while at Mater Dei High School.
In fact, Reinhardt claims he couldn't be happier with his decision to join the UNLV program, despite rumblings that have surfaced saying otherwise.
"I'm very happy with my decision," Reinhardt relayed. "That's why I got mad when people were starting those (transfer) rumors. Everybody goes through (frustration). It's part of college basketball. It's not high school anymore where, if you have a problem, you go or your parent goes and talks to coach and handles it politically.
"I learned so much last year and I feel so blessed that I had that opportunity. I'm very excited about being a Rebel and that will never change, for sure."
It was definitely an eye-opening year for Reinhardt, who hadn't dealt with much in the way of adversity at Mater Dei, especially when it comes to dealing with losses. Finishing behind New Mexico and Colorado State in the Mountain West and then losing in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament to California is weighing on him as the offseason looms.
Reinhardt noted that leadership wasn't a strength of the Rebels last year. He said he tried his best to do something that comes natural to him but, due to his lack of experience, wasn't able to get his message across to teammates.
That is about to change.
"I've been a leader my whole life and I love trying to better everybody and just help everybody. Last year, when I would say something, people would kind of look at me sideways. That's just how it goes. I tried but they kind of pigeonholed me as a freshman that doesn't know anything," Reinhardt said.
After being named a starter before the first game of the year and averaging nearly 30 minutes a game, Reinhardt thinks that he won't have any trouble being heard this time around.
He said, "Now, I feel like I have that kind of title where I can help everybody. I have that voice out there."
As Reinhardt prepares for his sophomore year and leading his teammates, he knows that there's a lot to improve on with his game, as well. Despite averaging close to 10 points and two 3-pointers a game, it's his all-around game that Reinhardt hopes to show off more when the 2013-14 season begins.
At Mater Dei, Reinhardt was as flashy as any player in the 2012 recruiting class. He could literally do it all on the offensive end. During his brief run at UNLV, Reinhardt is a bit disappointed that he became simply a jump shooter. He is using that disappointment to fuel getting his game back where it was when he entered college.
Now, that he's seen what he can and can't do at this level, he's certain that what he works on over the summer will make him successful in November.
Reinhardt said, "I'm trying to get back to the way I used to play, and having that full confidence. I'm working on ball handling, shooting, coming off screens and shooting, and off the dribble stuff. I know next year I'm going to have more opportunities to make plays off the dribble."
Those opportunities are going to come with the change in offensive philosophy by the Rebels. Rather than relying on one player to do the playmaking, UNLV expects to use a number of options with the ball in their hands, including Reinhardt
Reinhardt saw time at the point guard spot last year whenever Anthony Marshall got a rare break, but with DeVille Smith and Kendall Smith coming into the program, his time in that role might shrink. Throw in a more experienced DaQuan Cook and the point guard position seems all but taken care of.
Or maybe not. It may not be so clear cut, which Reinhardt says should be a good thing for all the guards on the roster.
In talks with the coaching staff, Reinhardt says that positions won't be emphasized nearly as much as they were a year ago. Every guard on the floor will be capable of pushing the ball after rebounds and everyone will get that chance. It's not going to be a one-man effort any longer.
Conversations between Reinhardt, coach Rice and his father, Ernie, have hammered home the thought that no matter where Katin plays, he will be put in a position to excel.
"Coach Rice and I have had talks. My dad and me have had talks," an excited Reinhardt said. "We feel playing that two guard spot is best. Rather than getting caught up in positions, which I think we did too much of this year, we are going to do a lot more running, so it doesn't matter who gets the ball.
"The point guard won't have to get the ball to start the break. If Katin gets it, he'll go. If DeVille gets it, he'll go. If Daquan gets it, he'll go. Then, it becomes just playing basketball rather than being a point guard or a shooting guard. I consider myself a guard. A guy that can score, that can handle the ball, make the pass. You know, can do everything rather than just be a point guard or two guard."
It's this mentality that Reinhardt believes will make the team closer on the court. Without contention about defining roles, players will feel more freedom than they already have in Rice's free-flowing offense.
"It makes basketball more fun than getting caught up in positions," Reinhardt said. "Nobody really cares anymore about being just a point guard or a shooting guard or a three. It's about being a basketball player. Next year, we are going to have four guys that can handle the ball on the floor at the same time, so it's not going to matter who gets the ball to start the break."
All of this goes back to the way Rice interacts and stays honest with his players. When talking about how his relationship with Rice is, Reinhardt said that everything that sold him on becoming a Rebel is still what makes him so content.
A lot of it goes back to the trust that Reinhardt said he felt throughout the year from Rice. Especially when times were at their most difficult, that's when Rice kept feeding Reinhard's confidence.
"It was a huge learning experience this year. He trusted me to make big shots and if I wasn't shooting well, he'd continue telling me to shoot the ball because he knows I'm a shooter and a scorer. He always had that trust in me to go out and make plays."
The offensive end wasn't the only area where Rice made a difference on his young guard. It was on defense, especially early in the season, where Rice's confidence in Reinhardt made an impression, and actually pushed him want to get better.
Back in November, Reinhardt and the Rebels got their first taste of frustration in a close loss to Oregon. The Ducks' Damyean Dotson went after Reinhardt over and over again during the game's final minutes. Rice never took Reinhardt off of Dotson, instead allowing Dotson to score eight of the Ducks' final 10 points, including the game-deciding bucket.
UNLV played less than 24 hours after that defeat. When Reinhardt found out he was still pencilled in as a starter, it meant something to him.
"I always look back at the Oregon game when they kept attacking me and attacking me. The next game, I go out and start and keep getting better. He trusted me a lot and I took that and trusted him."
When looking toward the future of the program, Reinhardt said that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals. With five new players coming into the program this summer, getting them acclimated and feeling welcomed is a priority.
Chemistry is sometimes overlooked because of talent, but it can't be overstated how important it is for a team. Reinhardt said of all the things holding last year's club back, chemistry was, most likely, the biggest factor. That is something that isn't going to be an issue any longer.
"There's a bright future. Last year, there was a lot of stuff that went on that was tough. It happens to every college team in the country." Reinhardt said when asked about what it's going to take to make the next step. "It's just chemistry and guys liking each other. The core group coming back, everyone loves each other. Now, we just got to get these new guys in and get to know them and getting back to playing basketball Runnin' Rebel style. That will get us to the next level."
For a full transcript of the Katin Reinhardt interview, check