The Desert Reign Pro City Summer League is set to open Tuesday, giving Rebel fans the opportunity to get an early look at some of the key players for next season’s UNLV squad.
Rosters and schedules for the league were announced over the weekend, and there are some intriguing scenarios involving UNLV players. Newcomers Jelan Kendrick and Kendall Smith will be in action, as will Roscoe Smith, who redshirted last season. Other Rebels set to take part in Desert Reign include sophomores Savon Goodman and Daquan Cook, and redshirt freshman Demetris Morant.
Full rosters and schedules are available here. While both are subject to change, let’s break down some of the angles that Rebel Nation should be monitoring:
Where does Kendrick fit?
We know Jelan Kendrick is a talented basketball player. He’s a former top-100 high school player who bounced between two Division I colleges before ending up at Indian Hills Community College last year, where he put up 12.9 points, 4.1 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game. He’ll be eligible for UNLV this season and figures to compete for a prominent spot in the rotation, although his ultimate position is still a bit of a mystery.
So where does he fit in for UNLV? Desert Reign could be the first step in answering that question. Kendrick says he’s a point guard, but at 6-foot-7 he may be better suited to play more of a swingman role for the Rebels. Either way, his game is perfectly tailored for an open-floor game, and that should be on display at Desert Reign.
Smith vs. Cook
Kendall Smith is another potential point guard option, as the freshman is coming off a season in which he averaged 22.8 points and 6.4 assists for his California high school team. This will be a chance for him to compete against college-caliber talent, including UNLV teammate Daquan Cook. Smith and Cook figure to engage in a preseason competition for the backup point guard job, and since they’re on different teams at Desert Reign, we should get a preview of that battle in the coming weeks.
Cook played sparingly last season, but he has a year of experience in Dave Rice’s system. Smith is determined to carve out a role as a freshman, and he can start by performing well at Desert Reign.
Roscoe in Action
Rebel fans have been waiting to see Roscoe Smith in a meaningful game, and although Desert Reign might not immediately jump to mind as an intense atmosphere, expect the UConn transfer to treat it like the Final Four. That’s the way he approached UNLV practices last season, and it’s a big reason why he’s expected to play a huge role for the Rebels this year.
Smith will bring toughness and doggedness to the lineup, whether it’s at small forward or power forward. I expect him to be a starter this season at one of those positions, and his on-court attitude will be a welcome addition after last season, when the Rebels were often unfocused and lacked intensity. Smith will change that.
Savon Goodman possesses many of the traits of an impact college basketball player: size, athleticism, energy, desire and defensive effort. What he lacks—or what he lacked last season—is skill. Goodman is in line for a much bigger role in the Rebels’ frontcourt this year, provided he improved his ball-handling and shooting since the end of last season.
As a freshman, Goodman excited with his hustle and defensive potential, but ultimately his lack of skill kept him stapled to the bench in important situations. His turnover rate was 18.3 percent (the only regulars with worse rates were Bryce Dejean-Jones and Anthony Marshall, both of whom handled the ball much more than Goodman) and he managed just a 49.7 true shooting percentage (better than only Mike Moser and Justin Hawkins, both of whom suffered through epic shooting slumps).
Desert Reign will be the first opportunity to see if Goodman has put in the work to get better in those areas. If he shows improved form on his jumper and the ability to handle the ball in traffic, he could be poised for a breakout season.
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