The Rebels will be fielding a team comprised almost entirely of newcomers next season, so Marvin Menzies is doing everything he can to help his players get acquainted. And what’s the best way to get to know someone?
By traveling with them, of course.
To that end, UNLV will take a preseason exhibition trip to the Bahamas in mid-August, playing three games against non-Division I opponents in an effort to get ready for the regular season.
The NCAA allows programs to schedule one foreign exhibition series every four years. UNLV last went abroad for a preseason trip in 2012, when Dave Rice took the Rebels to Canada before his second season at the helm.
The Runnin’ Rebel Club will foot the travel bill. The schedule has not been released yet, but UNLV will likely play three games in Nassua between Aug. 14-17.
A few quick thoughts on the trip:
The biggest benefit of taking a foreign trip is that it will give the players a chance to get on the court together against a real opponent. The Rebels will likely sport 10 newcomers to the roster this season (nine have already signed, with one open scholarship spot remaining), so it’s smart for Menzies to seize on any opportunity for them to gel.
In addition to giving key players like Jalen Poyser, Dwayne Morgan and Christian Jones time to work together and build chemistry, the exhibition games will also allow the freshmen to get their feet wet in a competitive environment. First-year players like Ben Coupet, Zion Morgan, Cheickna Dembele and Djordjije Sljivancanin may be called upon to serve in important reserve roles this season, so getting them acclimated in the Bahamas is useful.
Coaching staff reps
Players aren’t the only ones who can benefit from an early head start on the season. Menzies is a veteran coach, but it’s worth noting that this staff is working together for the first time. Menzies may have worked with some of the assistants in the past, but the coaches will still need some time to settle into their roles and figure out how to run the game from the sideline. The exhibition series should help in that sense.
More practice time
During a normal offseason, the NCAA allows teams to work out for eight hours per week, with only two of those hours earmarked for on-court training (the other six are designated for weights and conditioning). That’s not a lot of time for a new coach to install a new system for a team comprised entirely of new players. But for teams going on an exhibition tour, the NCAA allows 10 extra practices leading up to the trip.
By offseason standards, that’s a huge amount of practice time. The NCAA ordinarily allows teams to start holding full practices 42 days before the team’s first regular-season game, so when factoring in mandatory off-days, the 10 available exhibition sessions add up more than 25 percent more practice time during the offseason.
That has to be hugely appealing for Menzies, who has fought against the perception that 2016-17 is going to be a rebuilding year for the Rebels. Menzies has said repeatedly that he wants to win in Year 1, and if the Rebels use the extra practice time and exhibition games to their advantage, a good start to the season isn’t out of the question.