By Jon Rothstein
» More Columns
UNLV may very well be a Top 10 team heading into next season while possessing arguably the best front court in all of college basketball — but the Runnin Rebels have yet to solidify the most important position on their roster.
After losing multi-year floor general Oscar Bellfield to graduation, second-year coach Dave Rice said three different players will compete for UNLV’s starting point guard position in 2012-13. Bellfield, a four-year starter, was considered by many to be one of the primary reasons why the Runnin Rebels were able to advance to three consecutive NCAA Tournaments.
“We’re going into the season with three different guys competing for that spot,” Rice said last week in reference to UNLV’s point guard situation. “All three players — Anthony Marshall, Katin Reinhardt, and DaQuan Cook will have an equal opportunity of being the starter. The trip we take to Canada in the summer will go a long ways in determining who winds up starting at point guard once the season starts.”
Marshall, a senior to be figures to have an inside track over Reinhardt and Cook, who will both be entering their first seasons in college basketball. As a junior, Marshall enjoyed a breakout season under Rice, averaging a career best 4.5 assists per game. The 6-foot-3 Marshall also dished out seven or more dimes 11 different times last season.
“Even though Oscar (Bellfield) was our point guard last year, we played with multiple ball handlers,” Rice said. “I don’t think there’s any question we played our best basketball last year when Anthony was facilitating at a high level. We’re going to need more of that from him.”
While Marshall may be the initial favorite to become the starter, Reinhardt’s pedigree and maturity make him an interesting player to watch in this race. When Rice was an assistant at BYU, he was instrumental in the development of current NBA star Jimmer Fredette and there’s no doubt that those who’ve watched Reinhardt in high school at Mater Dei notice the similarities between the two players.
“We’re getting a guy that’s been coached at high level in high school and someone who’s played on big stages,” Rice said of Reinhardt. “Even though Katin is only going to be a freshman, he’s an accomplished scorer with a great feel. He’s going to do a good job as a combo guard for us but he’s also a very unselfish player. Getting assists is very important to Katin.”
Cook, a 6-foot-1 pass first point guard out of Baltimore is also going to be in the mix for major minutes according to Rice, who said the incoming freshman “is always looking to make plays for his teammates.”
While the point guard situation is going to take some time to sort out for Rice and UNLV, the Runnin Rebels are loaded at just about every position on the floor. USC transfer Bryce Jones looks set to start at shooting guard and is primed for a monster season. The likely starting baseline of Mike Moser, freshman power forward Anthony Bennett, and Pitt transfer Khem Birch should be as good as any in the sport. With Birch not eligible to play until December, Rice said he’s counting on big things from both Carlos Lopez and Quintrell Thomas, two big men who were reserves last season.
The Runnin Rebels also received a commitment from UCONN transfer Roscoe Smith last week, who will either add even more depth if he receives a waiver to play next season. If Smith isn’t cleared, he’ll likely step right in at small forward in 2013-14 as a starter should Moser or Bennett leave school early. Rice is also high on Justin Hawkins, a defensive wing who enjoyed a breakout season last year and Demetris Morant, a 6-foot-8 freshman power forward out of nearby Bishop Gorman High School who was a standout high jumper in addition to playing basketball.
“The depth and competition we’re going to have in practice should be tremendous,” Rice said. “I’m going in with the mindset that I’m going to play nine or ten guys each night.”
And they’ll need each and every one.
In addition to their usual schedule in the Mountain West, UNLV will travel to UTEP, Cal, and North Carolina while hosting Northern Iowa on December 19th. The Runnin Rebels will also play Oregon and the winner of Iowa State and Cincinnati in the Global Sports Classic in Las Vegas.
To say there’s a buzz surrounding this UNLV team heading into next season would be a massive, massive understatement.
“We can feel it,” Rice said of the buzz.
So can everyone else.
Who’s your pick for starting point guard? Be heard in the comments below…