Marvin Menzies: We’re Going to Make Teams “Uncomfortable”

Christian JonesIt’s been almost two months since our last attempt at a roster projection, and since practice is set to open about a month from now, this seems like a good time to check in with an updated look at the 2016-17 Rebels.

There haven’t been a lot of tangible changes, as the players remain the same from version 2.0. But there have been some developments—injuries, exhibition performances, etc.—that should be addressed before the preseason begins.

Let’s take a shot at version 3.0:

ROSTER PROJECTION — 2016-17

Projected Starting Five

PG — Jalen Poyser, sophomore
Marvin Menzies didn’t sound entirely convinced that Poyser is a point guard, telling reporters that the position was open for evaluation during the Rebels’ exhibition series in the Bahamas. Poyser played well enough in those games to maintain his hold on the starting job, however, leading the team with 18.3 points per game while making seven of his 14 3-point attempts. UNLV is going to need scoring this season, so as long as Poyser provides that kind of production he’ll be heavily involved in the Rebels’ offense.

SG — Uche Ofoegbu, senior
Ofoegbu is a veteran, so unlike with Poyser’s situation, I’m not going to read too much into his performance in the Bahamas. The grad transfer has a history of making 3-point shots and will likely be better than his 2-of-10 showing from long range over the three exhibition games. Ofoegbu is firmly entrenched here.

SF — Kris Clyburn, sophomore
After the last roster projection came out, Clyburn suffered a knee injury and had to undergo surgery to repair his meniscus. It’s a relatively minor injury, but it was still nice to see the swingman bounce back and show his athleticism in the Bahamas. Clyburn rang up 16.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game and solidified his spot as a two-way perimeter playmaker for the Rebels. The big question is whether he will be able to create his own offense against Division I opponents. That will be the difference between being a decent starter and being a star.

PF — Dwayne Morgan, junior
This is the position that has become the most tenuous since the last projection, as Morgan suffered a hip injury that kept him from playing the Bahamas and could affect him into the early part of the regular season. That would be a difficult situation for UNLV, which has few big men capable of stepping in and playing the type of defense that Morgan can provide. For now, I’ll still list Morgan as the starter. But if he’s not up and running by the start of preseason practice, Menzies will have to begin considering other options until Morgan can get back to full health. Freshman center Cheickna Dembele is one alternative, although he comes with his own issues (see below).

C — Christian Jones, senior
When doing the last projection, I was a bit iffy on Jones’ ability to man the center position on a full-time basis. I’m still not quite there—dominating against non-DI opponents in the Bahamas doesn’t mean he’s ready to do the same against Mountain West bigs—but I was encouraged by his willingness to rebound (team-high 13.0 boards per game in exhibition play) as the lone big man on the court. I think Jones goes into the season as UNLV’s center and plays well in that role.

Bench (rotation)

G — Zion Morgan, freshman
Morgan still looks like the top backcourt reserve to me, especially if his Bahamas performance was any indication of how he’ll play in the regular season. He also has the size to defend point guards and shooting guards, which is an added value.

F — Tyrell Green, senior
Green is looking increasingly important for the Rebels, who may end up with a total shortage of big men as the year goes on. Green is big-ish at 6-foot-7, and he can shoot. If he can rebound, he’ll play more than 10 minutes per game.

G — Jovan Mooring, junior
Mooring got a look at point guard in the Bahamas, but I think his skill set is better suited off the ball, where he has the freedom to create shots in the mid-range area. He’s an instant-offense guy, and as I think UNLV will need scoring in 2016-17, I’m elevating Mooring into the rotation over defensive-minded freshman Ben Coupet.

C — Cheickna Dembele, freshman
Dembele didn’t play in the Bahamas due to an eligibility issue. It’s too early to drop him from the rotation because of it, but UNLV fans are understandably gun shy after last year’s Derrick Jones debacle.

Bench (depth)

G/F — Ben Coupet, freshman
Coupet is a solid defender (or at least he should develop into one), but I’m not sure there’s a defined role for him in the regular rotation this season. He’s now firmly behind Green in the frontcourt, in my opinion.

F — Djordjije Slijivancanin, freshman
Still a mystery man, Slijivancanin will have to step up his rebounding if he wants to play in 2016-17.

Redshirts

G — Jordan Johnson, senior
Still a year away, Johnson is a great asset in the bank for the 2017-18 team.

Season Predictions

Team MVP: Jalen Poyser
I think Poyser’s performance on both ends of the court will be the determining factor in how many games the Rebels win.

Projected top scorer: Jalen Poyser
Poyser is UNLV’s most well-rounded offensive player. He’ll most likely have a green light, and if he shoots consistently, he’ll be in double figures almost every night.

Position battle to watch: Power forward
With Dwayne Morgan out for much of the summer and Cheickna Dembele battling clearance issues, senior Tyrell Green could have an opportunity to step in.

Biggest question mark: Halfcourt offense
The Rebels were effective in exhibition play when they got out and ran, but I’m not sure there’s enough shooting and overall skill to sustain a good halfcourt attack. Menzies will have to scheme it rather than relying on his players’ natural abilities.

Weak spots: Rebounding
Even with Christian Jones’ strong showing in the Bahamas, this still projects to be an ongoing issue all season long.

Vegas Seven

DTLV

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