1997-98 Season Outlook |
Nov. 3, 1997
"Shooting To The Next Level"
The Runnin' Rebel basketball program has assembled back-to-back outstanding recruiting classes heading into the 1997-98 campaign. UNLV boasted the nation's top 1996 recruiting class and 1997's was rated third in the nation by Basketball Weekly.
UNLV will be competing in its second season in the 16-team Western Athletic Conference, the nation's largest major athletics conference.
The Runnin' Rebels boast a strong nucleus returning from the 1996-97 squad which posted an overall record of 22-10 and a 11-5 mark, which was third in the WAC's Pacific Division. UNLV more than doubled its win total from 1995-96. The 22 wins was the most since the 1991-92 season. UNLV participated in the National Invitation Tournament, the program's first postseason appearance since 1992-93.
The Runnin' Rebels should possess the necessary arsenal to battle in the highly competitive WAC, a conference which saw seven teams receive postseason bids last season (New Mexico, Tulsa and Utah in the NCAA and Fresno State, UNLV and TCU in the NIT). In addition, eight WAC teams posted 20 or more wins.
UNLV's program received further good news in April 1997, when the UNLV Athletic Department announced that third-year head coach Bill Bayno received a new five-year contract that will run to the turn of the century and beyond (April 1997 through the 2001-2002 season).
UNLV returns five players plus three redshirts and adds seven newcomers.
"I'm extremely excited about this year's incoming student-athletes who will join the Rebel family this fall," Bayno said. "We had certain needs that had to be met to take this program to the next level and I feel we have been sucessful in meeting those needs.
"Overall, the thing that impresses me the most about this recruiting class is that they are all good people and are good students who will go to class and represent the University well."
UNLV returns three seniors: Corky Ausborne, Keon Clark and Tyrone Nesby.
Ausborne, a 6-foot-2 guard from DeSoto, Tex., will add depth to UNLV's outside game. He appeared in 19 games last season and played in 109 minutes. He scored a season-high eight points against Air Force on Feb. 20.
Clark, a 6-foot-11 center from Danville, Ill., solidifies the inside game with his shot blocking ability. Last year, tabbed a member of the first-team All-WAC Pacific Division squad, the WAC All-Newcomer Team, WAC All-Defensive squad and All-District 15 (West Coast) Team. He appeared in 29 games last season and was the team's second-leading scorer (14.8) and leading rebounder (10.0) and shot blocker with 112 (3.9 average). He became the first UNLV player in history to record 100 or more blocks in a season. He broke the UNLV single-season record shattering George Ackles' 77 blocks in 1990-91. Keon registered five blocks or more in a game 10 times. He led the team with 15 double-doubles and scored 20 or more points nine times and scored in double figures in 23 of 29 games. He scored a career-high 27 points against San Jose State on Feb. 15 and pulled down a career-high 17 rebounds against TCU on Feb. 22 and against Arkansas on March 19. He averaged 20.7 points and 14.7 rebounds in three NIT games against Memphis, Hawai'i and Arkansas.
Nesby, a 6-foot-6 forward from Cairo, Ill., is a versatile player who returns for his second season. He was named first-team All-WAC Pacific Division as well as All-WAC Newcomer. He appeared in 32 games (started in 31) and was the team's leading scorer with 16.5 points and third-leading rebounder with 7.1 boards. He scored in double figures in 28 of 32 games and ranked second on the team in free throw percentage at .720. He scored 20 or more points in a game a team-high 10 times. Tyrone was the team-leader with 1,063 minutes played and scored a career-high 30 points against Air Force on Feb. 20. He ranked second on the team with nine double-doubles.
Junior Grant Rice, 6-foot-4 from Claremont, Calif., returns to the Rebels for his third season. He appeared in 5 games last season and was declared a medical redshirt with an injured right elbow. He is a pure shooter who will add depth to the guard position. He appeared in 24 games during the 1995-96 season and averaged 1.1 points. He scored a season-high 7 points against Cal State Northridge on Nov. 25.
Sophomore Mark Dickel rounds out the returning players.
Dickel, a 6-foot-1 guard from Dunedin, New Zealand, returns for his second season. He was named the 1996-97 WAC Pacific Division Freshman of the Year. He appeared in 32 games (started in 31) last season in 750 minutes played (23.4 average). He averaged 5.1 points and 123 assists (3.8 average), tied with Kevin James for the team lead. He dished out five or more assists in 10 games. He ranked fourth on the team in free throw percentage at .710. He scored a career-high 13 points and pulled down a season-high six rebounds against San Jose State on Jan. 2. He dished out a career-high nine assists against Jacksonville on Nov. 26 and against San Jose State on Feb. 15.
UNLV also has two redshirts (Kevin Simmons and Donovan Stewart), two transfers from four-year schools (Brian Keefe and Tyrell Jamerson) and Issiah Epps, who sat out his freshman season and has three years of eligibility remaining. UNLV's recruiting class will enable the 1997-98 squad to make a run for the NCAA Tournament.
Edwin "Greedy" Daniels, a 6-foot freshman point guard, is UNLV's top recruit. He is a graduate of Cohen High School in New Orleans, La., where he played for coach Farid-Bin Mateen. As a senior, he appeared in 37 games and averaged 21.7 points (804 total points), 4.9 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and was the team-leader with 153 steals (4.1 average). He earned MVP honors for the city (New Orleans) and the state of Louisiana. He is regarded as one of the nation's top prep point guards. He was ranked 27th in Basketball Weekly's Top 100 prospects (June, 1997 edition). He was named to the Parade Magazine All-American team.
"Greedy is a tremendous competitor," Bayno said. "His biggest attribute is his intensity and ability to cover the ball. Offensively, he can push the ball up the court and he can get the ball to the open player and to the post. What most impresses me about him is his intense desire to win."
Kaspars Kambala, a 6-foot-9 freshman forward, is a graduate of Homestead High School in Mequon, Wis., where he played for coach John Chekouras. The native of Riga, Latvia, averaged 21 points and 12 rebounds last season. He earned second-team All-Wisconsin honors. He attended the Adidas ABCD Camp in Teaneck, N.J., along with nearly 200 other top college prospects. He also played in the Eddie Jones Classic All-Star game, scoring 24 points and pulling down 12 rebounds and hit the game-winning shot as the Red team beat the Silver team, 125-124.
"He has a tremendous work ethic that will make it easy for our coaching staff to have him reach his potential as a player," Bayno said. "He is the consummate banger who will sacrifice his body on both sides of the court. Offensively, he can run the floor and has the soft touch with great hands. He also possesses the ability to pass the ball."
Simmons, a 6-foot-7 junior forward, is a transfer from UC Irvine. He appeared in 26 games in the 1995-96 season and was the team's second-leading scorer with a 15.0 average and team's leading rebounder at 7.2. He redshirted the 1996-97 season and practiced with the Runnin' Rebels.
Stewart, a 6-foot-4 freshman guard, appeared in one game last season and was declared a medical redshirt with a lower back injury (herniated disc). He underwent surgery on Dec. 2, 1996. He is a 1996 graduate of Cheshire Academy in Connecticut. As a senior (1995-96), he appeared in 28 games and averaged 21.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.8 steals.
Jamerson, a 6-foot senior guard, is a transfer from Wheeling Jesuit College in West Virginia. He is a local product from Western High School. He played for the Warriors for two seasons (1991-93).
Keefe, a 6-foot-4 junior guard, is a redshirt from Boston College (did not play for the Eagles). He played two seasons at UC Irvine (1994-96). He was named second-team All-Big West Conference in 1995-96. He appeared in 27 games (started 27) and led UCI with 16.4 points (442 total points). He scored a career-high 32 points against New Mexico State on Feb. 17, 1996. He was named to the 1994-95 Big West Conference All-Freshman Team, appearing in 29 games (started 16) and averaging 5.7 points. He is a 1994 graduate of Winchester High School (Mass.).
Epps, a 6-foot-10 sophomore, will add depth to the inside game. He played the 1995-96 season at Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield, Maine. He appeared in 15 games and averaged 17.3 points, 12.1 rebounds and 5.8 blocks.
Rounding out UNLV's roster is 6-foot-5 senior forward Justin Thacker and 6-foot freshman guard Keith Long and 6-foot-9 freshman forward Ali Kaba.
"We have a tremendous challenge ahead of us" Bayno said. "With the players we have returning, to go along with this recruiting class, expectations will be high.
"The only pressure I will put on these guys is to go out and play hard every day and compete in practice."
The Runnin' Rebels will once again play another strong non-conference schedule. The Runnin' Rebels feature nonconference home games are against Syracuse in the Las Vegas Shootout (the other game is between Colorado and UMass) and UCLA. Top nonconference road games are at Michigan, Tulane and USC.
UNLV will be a participant in the 1997 Chase NIT, the 16-team preseason tournament. UNLV will host Eastern Michigan in the first round on Nov. 19 and the winner will face the winner of Western Kentucky/Kansas on Nov. 21. UNLV, which was one win away from reaching the Final Four in last season's postseason NIT, must win two games to reach the semi-finals at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday and Friday, Nov. 26 and 28.
The WAC schedule features 14 Mountain Division games with home-and-home contests with Air Force Academy, Colorado State, Wyoming plus BYU, New Mexico, Texas El-Paso, Utah.
The WAC Tournament will return for its second season in Las Vegas on Tuesday-Saturday, March 3-7, at the Thomas & Mack Center.