One day after being held out of the Rebels’ first official practice as punishment for missing a weight room session, junior center Khem Birch was back in action on Tuesday.
Birch, the reigning Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year and a preseason first-team All-Conference pick this season, was a full participant in Tuesday’s practice. There was no media availability after practice, so Birch didn’t get a chance to address his absence on Monday.
It’s not an ideal beginning to the season, especially for a player who is expected to take on a leadership role this year, but for now it appears as though Birch and the Rebels are moving forward. Birch was solid on the court, showing some new low-post moves on offense and rebounding well on the defensive end.
Other news and notes from Tuesday’s practice:
Dejean-Jones stands out
If there was one standout player from Tuesday’s session, I’d have to pick Bryce Dejean-Jones. He scored at will during the 5-on-5 scrimmages, including one sequence where he drove the lane and finished at the rim with a finger roll, then grabbed a defensive rebound, got the ball back on the offensive end and hit a 3-pointer.
He also made several nice defensive plays while aggressively trapping in the backcourt, teaming with Roscoe Smith to force at least two turnovers that led to instant conversions.
It wasn’t the best showing for the Rebels’ freshmen, as the group of Kendall Smith, Jamal Aytes and Dantley Walker had their ups and downs (fellow freshman Chris Wood was once again inactive due to a broken finger).
Smith appeared to get the most playing time during 5-on-5 work and made a couple of nice passes in transition, but otherwise faded into the background on offense. Walker committed a few too many turnovers, though he also flashed good shooting range and an ability to get into the lane. And a day after tweaking his knee, Aytes was back on the court but didn’t appear to be in full attack mode.
This isn’t to say the newcomers are in over their heads, but it may take some time for them to get up to speed at the NCAA Division I level. In other words, they looked like freshmen going through their second college practice. Expect improvement.
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