In early November, Mike Moser was a talented prospect on UNLV's roster and not much more. In a way, he felt like a member of some sort of college basketball witness protection program.
"Nobody knew what I could do or even knew my name, for that matter," he said.
That all changed in a short time, because everyone in the Mountain West Conference knew Moser's name before one league game was played. He became a popular target for national recognition, too.
The 6-foot-8-inch sophomore forward, who transferred from UCLA, was named a first-team all-conference pick and Newcomer of the Year on Monday.
Moser was one of four Rebels honored on the all-conference teams selected by media and the eight head coaches. Junior guard Anthony Marshall was voted to the second team, and seniors Oscar Bellfield and Chace Stanback were third-team picks for the second consecutive year.
Moser and Marshall also were named to the all-defensive team.
"I really didn't expect all these honors," Moser said. "But it's definitely not surprising to me. I put in a lot of work in the offseason just to get ready for all of this."
Moser has averaged 14.0 points and 10.7 rebounds this season, including 13.7 points and 10.2 rebounds in conference games. He also led the league in steals per game (2.0) and ranked third in blocked shots (16).
"For a guy in his first year of playing major minutes in college basketball to average a double-double is a terrific accomplishment," UNLV coach Dave Rice said. "Mike's very deserving of the honors. He's been such a big part of the success of our team. We knew he was going to be a good player, and he became a very good player early on."
Until recently, Moser was considered a leading candidate to be the Mountain West's Player of the Year, an award that went to San Diego State sophomore guard Jamaal Franklin.
The Aztecs' Steve Fisher repeated as Coach of the Year.
San Diego State and New Mexico are the league's co-champions, with the Aztecs earning the top seed in this week's conference tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center.
The Rebels (25-7, 9-5) are the No. 3 seed in the tournament and face sixth-seeded Wyoming (20-10, 6-8) at 8:30 p.m. Thursday.
After last week's loss at Colorado State, UNLV dropped three spots to No. 20 in both The Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today coaches' polls.
"This team had its high points and its low points, but overall it's a solid season," said Moser, who concluded the regular season with a 17-point, 12-rebound performance in the Rebels' 74-63 victory over the Cowboys on Saturday.
"I had some good nights, some great nights and some not-so-good nights. I wish I could have some games back. It's not satisfying to me. I want to win more games. But I'm not disappointed."
In a four-game stretch from Feb. 18 to 29, Moser averaged only 6.5 points and said he was "definitely mentally worn down" with the travel and a physically demanding schedule.
"These last couple weeks were definitely trying," he said. "But I feel like I'm back now."
Moser and Franklin were joined on the first team by New Mexico senior forward Drew Gordon, also a UCLA transfer, Colorado State junior guard Wes Eikmeier and Texas Christian senior guard Hank Thorns, a former Valley High School star.
Marshall, a Mojave High School product, averaged 13.8 points in league games and 12.0 for the season to earn all-conference recognition for the first time in his career.
"Anthony has matured greatly as a leader," Rice said. "He has played his best basketball since conference play started, becoming a very reliable go-to guy for us on the offensive end."
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907.