In the aftermath of UNLV’s ninth-straight loss – a 94-58 beat down at the hands of Nevada – Marvin Menzies hinted at his plan to fix UNLV basketball in the coming years.
“I am 100 percent certain where I am going with my roster from a recruiting standpoint,” Menzies said. “I’ve seen enough. I don’t need to play a guy a few minutes here or there to determine his value to the future of what we’re doing. I know who I want to roll with going forward. And I know what we need to do in the recruiting landscape.”
Menzies was asked about possibly playing some of the younger guys more minutes to see what they can provide for the future. That answer essentially indicates if a player isn’t getting playing time now, he probably isn’t going to be a part of UNLV’s future.
Looking at how Menzies has handed out playing time the last 10 games, it is pretty evident which players Menzies doesn’t need to see more of.
It is important to note that Troy Baxter hasn’t dressed the last two games and has only played three times in the last 10 games for what Menzies attributed to an assortment of small injuries.
Larry Bush is a walk on, so his minutes aren’t overly concerning. But the minutes of Baxter, Ben Coupet and Djordjije Sljivancanin indicate they are halfway out the door.
The two players in the middle are Jalen Poyser and Kris Clyburn. Both have started 19 games this season, but their minutes have decreased as the season went on. Plus Poyser was suspended one game for a violation of team rules.
The good news for Poyser and Clyburn is that they are still in the rotation. Their decrease in playing time is likely more indicative of their quality of play in the last 10 games, rather than an ominous sign about their future.
So Menzies is in a spot where 3 of his top 5 in minutes played are seniors that won’t be able to help next season and aren’t playing for anything this season. It is a line Menzies has drawn; he isn’t going to give a guy playing time simply to see what he can do. Playing time has to be earned under Menzies. Whatever he sees on the court in practice indicates there is no reason to even give some of the younger guys an extended chance.
While he’s new to UNLV, Menzies isn’t new to leading a program. He took New Mexico State to five NCAA Tournaments in his nine years as head coach. He went 62-14 in the WAC over his last five seasons.
“I know what we’re doing works. But it’s not working with this group,” Menzies said.
So the group has to change. Menzies had to deal with significant roster turnover last offseason, and he is setting himself up for another upheaval.
Christian Jones, Tyrell Green and Uche Ofoegbu are seniors. Another handful of players will be transfer candidates, meaning Menzies could be looking at a roster with six or more new faces next year. That isn’t a bad sign when the team is 10-19.
Next year’s roster will be better. Jordan Johnson, who was second in the country in assists last year at Milwaukee, will be eligible after redshirting this season. Dwayne Morgan should return after his season was cut short by injury. Those two are the best players on the roster this season, but Menzies can’t use them.
Throw in a year of development and familiarity for Poyser, Clyburn, Jovan Mooring, Cheickna Dembele and Zion Morgan and the Rebels will be better equipped to win in the Mountain West. But that group is likely competing for a spot in the middle of the conference, rather than the top. The 2017 recruiting class could change that. Five-star Brandon McCoy may end up choosing the Rebels and give UNLV a chance at a top spot in the conference.
Menzies might have to get the 2017 class right considering the current roster construction. Only Jordan Johnson and Jovan Mooring are scheduled to be seniors in 2018. Menzies could bring in graduate transfers this offseason, or the Rebels could see some guys leave as transfers after the 2017-18 season. But as it stands now, the available scholarships for 2018 are limited.
Menzies essentially says he needs new players to win at UNLV. He’s the one in charge of finding them.