Oct. 17, 2009
LAS VEGAS - The UNLV men’s basketball program held its second annual FirstLook opening practice event at the Thomas & Mack Center on Friday night as fans got a chance to see the 2009-10 team in action for the first time.
An estimated crowd of nearly 5,000 fans received an early treat as UNLV great Larry Johnson – a member of the 1990 National Championship Runnin’ Rebel squad – opened the event by greeting the crowd and providing a live version of “Lights, Please” – which begins the famed pregame fireworks show.
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“Having Larry involved was a great way to start the evening,” said UNLV head coach Lon Kruger. “The event grew in just its second year and we are looking forward to FirstLook becoming an important tradition for our program and fans.”
Johnson also had a chance to address the team in the locker room just prior to the Runnin' Rebels taking the court via the red carpet. “Our guys have a ton of respect for Larry and his teammates and for what they did for this program and this city,” Kruger said. “Anytime we have the opportunity to have him talk to our guys we are going to take it.”
After the team was introduced, the Rebels ran through a number of drills, including entertaining fans with several dunks. The team then played a 20-minute scrimmage before greeting fans on the court for autographs to conclude the event.
The event was a part of this week’s UNLV Homecoming celebration. UNLV president Neal Smatresk and a number of the university’s leaders made their way to the practice event following the conclusion of the annual alumni dinner, which featured one of its largest attendances in recent years. Smatresk joined the Rebels directly behind their bench during the scrimmage.
“That type of support from the president means so much to our coaches and our players,” Kruger said. “UNLV basketball has been such an important part of this university and this community for decades. As the president says, this is about more than just basketball. Runnin’ Rebel basketball is a gateway to the community for the entire university and we embrace that.”
The event kicked-off official practices for the Runnin’ Rebels. They will face Washburn in an exhibition game at the Thomas & Mack Center on Nov. 10 before playing host to Pittsburg State on Opening Night on Saturday, Nov. 14.