UNLV has had freshmen make an immediate impact on the basketball court prior to this season, but there’s never been a group with the potential of this year’s class. The 2012-13 Rebels’ roster includes three highly recruited freshmen in Anthony Bennett, Katin Reinhardt and Savon Goodman (as well as redshirts Daquan Cook and Demetris Morant), players expected to be key contributors in their first season. But who have been the best freshmen to wear a Rebel uniform? This list could possibly look different next year, but it’ll take some stellar play before any of these seven are unseated:
1. Sidney Green — The Brooklyn native was the first McDonald’s All-American to play for UNLV, and is part of one of the greatest freshmen classes in college basketball history. The 6-foot-9 forward averaged a team-leading 15.6 points and 11.1 rebounds per game in 1979-80, with both totals ranking second among the nation’s freshmen in a group that included future NBA stars such as Ralph Sampson, Isiah Thomas, James Worthy, Dominique Wilkins, Terry Cummings and Clark Kellogg. Green and fellow freshman Larry Anderson, who averaged 11.4 ppg that season, helped lead the Rebels to the semifinals of the National Invitation Tournament, where they lost to Sampson-led Virginia, finishing the season 23-9. Green remains UNLV’s second-leading career scorer with 2,073 points (17.4 ppg), and was an All-American his senior season before playing in the NBA for 10 years.
2. Stacey Augmon — One of the greatest Rebels of all time also had one of the most heralded rookie years at UNLV. The Pasadena, Calif., native was the 1987-88 Big West Conference Freshman of the Year after averaging 9.2 points per game, shooting 57 percent from the field, with a team-leading 69 steals for the Rebels, who finished 28-6 and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament. Following the season, the 6-foot-8 forward earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic team through his defensive brilliance. Augmon, the third-leading scorer in UNLV history with 2,011 points (13.9 ppg), played 15 seasons in the NBA and is now an assistant coach with the Rebels.
3. Anderson Hunt — The 6-foot-2 guard was named the NCAA tournament’s Most Outstanding Player as a sophomore for his contributions to the Rebels’ 1990 national championship run, flying down court to finish a fast break or nailing a 3-pointer to stick a dagger into another opponent. But the Detroit native had already become a postseason hero to Rebel fans his freshman year, hitting five 3-pointers—including the game-winner with two seconds left—in UNLV’s 68-67 victory over No. 1-seeded Arizona in the third round of the 1989 NCAA tournament. Hunt, who averaged 12 ppg that season, left UNLV after his junior year but never played in the NBA. He is 13th in career scoring at UNLV, with 1,632 points (15 ppg) in three years.
4. Eldridge Hudson — The 6-foot-8 forward arrived at UNLV with lofty credentials, a McDonald’s All-American and the Los Angeles City 4-A Player of the Year who had led Carson High to the California state title. He opened the 1982-83 season in the Rebels’ starting lineup, and was averaging more than 12 points and seven rebounds when he injured his knee during the 10th game of the season, on New Year’s Day. Hudson missed about two weeks after that, but returned to play in 16 more games, averaging 9.3 ppg overall. The Rebels, led by senior All-American Sidney Green, senior forward Larry Anderson and sophomore point guard Danny Tarkanian, won their first 24 games of the season and were ranked No. 1 nationally. But they faded late, losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament to finish 28-3 as El Hud” played on his injured knee, postponing surgery until after the season. Hudson was forced to miss the 1983-84 season, and was never the same player after that. He did play three more years for UNLV, though, helping the Rebels reach the 1987 Final Four as a senior.
5. Silas Stepp — Playing when UNLV was still Nevada Southern, Stepp was the Rebels’ first star, and the New Orleans native didn’t waste any time making his presence felt on the court. As a freshman in 1962-63, the 6-foot-5 center averaged a team-leading 17.9 ppg and finished second in rebounding, helping Nevada Southern finish 21-4 in the program’s fourth season of existence. Stepp, who died in 2004, is the fifth-leading scorer (1,942 points; 18.3 ppg) and rebounder (895) in Rebel history, and led Nevada Southern in scoring all four of his seasons.
6. Kaspars Kambala — The 6-foot-9 Latvian brought the Rebels interior toughness as a freshman forward in 1997-98, averaging 11.6 ppg on 52 percent shooting and a team-leading 7.4 rebounds per game. He was named the Western Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year, and helped UNLV win the WAC tournament, earning the Rebels their first NCAA tournament berth since 1991. Kambala, one of coach Bill Bayno’s finest four-year recruits, is 10th in career scoring with 1,699 points (15 ppg) and fourth in rebounding (921) at UNLV.
7. Dalron Johnson — The 6-9 forward was one of the Rebels’ main contributors as a freshman in 1999-2000, starting 30 of 31 games and averaging 11.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and a team-leading 1.4 blocks per game. The Los Angeles native was named the co-Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year (with Air Force’s Tom Bellairs), and was a MWC all-tournament selection as UNLV won the championship and earned a trip to the NCAA tournament. Johnson was a consistent performer with the Rebels for four seasons, and ranks ninth in points (1,728; 14.2 ppg), seventh in rebounds (841) and first in blocked shots (194) on the career lists.