It’s been an eventful offseason for UNLV, to say the least. The Rebels lost their two best players from last season (Anthony Bennett and Anthony Marshall), their best player from two seasons ago (Mike Moser), and someone who they thought would be a four-year cornerstone for the program (Katin Reinhardt).
They’ve also added a quartet of talented transfers (Roscoe Smith, DeVille Smith, Jelan Kendrick, Kevin Olekaibe) and two high-ceiling freshmen (Kendall Smith, Chris Wood).
So while it’s still way too early to accurately predict what the team is going to look like when the 2013-14 season starts five months from now, we’re going to take a crack at it anyway with our official roster projection. We’re breaking the team down into four categories — starting lineup, bench (rotation), bench (depth), and walk-ons — and doing our best to slot the players into those tiers.
Obviously, this is an inexact science. Position battles haven’t even been waged yet, let alone won or lost. But in terms of generating discussion, this is a good place to start. Here’s how we see things shaking out in 2013-14:
Projected Starting Five
PG — DeVille Smith, 2015
This job looks like it’s Smith’s to lose. He’s got the shooting touch, the handle and the athletic ability to step in as the starting point guard right away. Anthony Marshall gave the Rebels a little bit of everything last year, so Smith has some big shoes to fill.
SG — Bryce Dejean-Jones, 2015
When Katin Reinhardt left the program, Dejean-Jones was elevated as the unquestioned focal point of the offense. Look for him to be the first option this season and approach 17-19 points per game.
SF — Savon Goodman, 2016
This spot in the lineup is the most up for grabs. Goodman showed flashes last year, and he gets the early nod in the frontcourt based on his experience in the system. Dave Rice is a big Goodman fan and you get the sense he’d like nothing more than for the sophomore to earn a prominent role.
PF — Roscoe Smith, 2015
Smith will bring intensity to the defensive end and much-needed leadership off the court. You can tell the coaches expect his impact to be immediate and extremely positive. He may be a bit undersized for the position, but Smith is a tough dude and I expect Rice to emphasize speed and open-court play this season, anyway.
C — Khem Birch, 2015
Birch is the anchor of the starting lineup, as he is primed for a superb season on both ends of the floor. He should be a double-double machine and a National DPOY candidate in 2013-14. If Birch continues to develop his post-up game, he can be an absolute monster in the middle.
G/F — Jelan Kendrick, 2015
It remains to be seen where Kendrick will fit into the Rebels’ system, position-wise. If he ends up on the wing, his superior ball-handling would bring an added dimension to the offensive attack. I think he’ll get first crack at the backup PG minutes whenever DeVille Smith heads to the bench.
G — Kevin Olekaibe, 2014
Olekaibe will technically be a walk-on, but the Fresno State transfer is no ordinary case. He’s a former 18-ppg scorer who should slide into the backcourt rotation and provide punch from behind the 3-point line.
C — Carlos Lopez-Sosa, 2014
Coming off a disappointing junior campaign, Lopez-Sosa seems re-dedicated to improving his game and becoming a contributor on the floor. If he can spell Birch for 10-12 minutes each night and be effective, it would be a huge help for the Rebels, considering how thin they appear in the middle.
F — Demetris Morant, 2017
This is where the Rebels’ lack of big men becomes evident. Morant redshirted last year and is still a raw talent, but Rice needs either Morant or Chris Wood to step up and provide backup minutes at power forward. I give Morant the edge as of now, simply based on his experience.
G — Kendall Smith, 2017
At 6-foot-3, Smith has the size (and the skill) to play either the 1 or the 2. I think the freshman will see spot minutes at both positions, eventually surpassing sophomore Daquan Cook on the depth chart at point guard.
G — Daquan Cook, 2016
Cook is in danger of being completely recruited over, as the Rebels have brought in three potential point guards (DeVille Smith, Kendrick and Kendall Smith) in the past year. Cook has to make major strides or he’ll end up buried on the bench this season and for the foreseeable future.
F — Chris Wood, 2017
Wood is talented enough to challenge Morant for the backup PF spot, but I don’t know if the freshman is physically developed enough to handle that role. Wood can knock down open 3-pointers, however, and Morant is a non-shooter, so expect Wood to carve out some type of niche.
G — Charles Rushman, 2017
The coaching staff seems surprisingly high on the Crushman, as evidenced by their decision to redshirt him last year despite his walk-on status.
G — Barry Cheaney, 2015
Strictly a victory cigar, Cheaney is noted for his work on the scout team in practice.
G — Dantley Walker, 2017
It would be a risky move to redshirt Walker, considering his LDS mission has already kept him off the basketball court for two years. But it may also be the best way for him to knock off the rust and ease into the college game.
Open scholarships (1)
With Katin Reinhardt’s surprising decision to transfer, the Rebels have one scholarship spot to fill. At this point, I think Rice is likely to keep this slot open into the season in hopes of poaching a talented player who decides to transfer mid-season. That’s how Rice snagged Khem Birch two years ago, and that move has been a home run.
Team MVP: Khem Birch
He’s an absolute star on the defensive end who probably didn’t get enough minutes last year. That won’t be an issue this season.
Projected top scorer: Bryce Dejean-Jones
With Reinhardt gone, BDJ gets the green-light treatment. He got more efficient as last year went on, which is a good sign.
Position battle to watch: Small forward — Savon Goodman vs. Jelan Kendrick
Goodman is more physical, Kendrick is more skilled. Rice could end up playing the matchups here.
Biggest question mark: DeVille Smith
Smith will likely be taking the reins of a team that has a lot of moving parts. Is he ready to helm an NCAA tournament team?
Weak spots: Physical big men
The Rebels have downsized this year, leaving little big man depth behind Khem Birch. Will one of Morant, Wood or Lopez-Sosa step up to fill that void?
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