After taking a look around, UNLV junior guard Bryce Dejean-Jones realized how much has changed in the past year.
“The guys I came here with, most of them are gone,” he said. “It’s a lot different.”
The Rebels unveiled their new-look roster for the Scarlet/Gray Showcase at the Thomas &Mack Center on Thursday night. A crowd of around 5,000 showed up to catch a preview of the 2013-14 basketball season.
Six of the top eight scorers from last season are gone, leaving Dejean-Jones and junior center Khem Birch to lead the way, and that’s exactly what they did during the 20-minute scrimmage.
Dejean-Jones scored 12 points to help the Scarlet to a 36-27 victory over the Gray team, which was topped by Birch’s 11 points and six rebounds.
“It’s always important to get in front of fans under the lights and for me to see how guys respond,” coach Dave Rice said.
The scrimmage got off to a ragged start. Two minutes into it, Rice used his first timeout of the season.
“It was expected. Our guys were so excited to play, and I just wanted them to settle down,” Rice said. “All we were doing was taking 3-point shots. We did a better job after that.”
The Rebels’ two squads combined to shoot 4-for-19 from 3-point range. Deville Smith, a junior college transfer from Jackson, Miss., hit 3 of 5. Smith scored nine points for the Scarlet team, and senior forward Carlos Lopez-Sosa added eight points and seven rebounds.
Roscoe Smith, a junior forward and Connecticut transfer, had 10 points for the Gray team.
Rice’s challenge is weaving the fresh faces in with veterans Dejean-Jones, Birch, Lopez-Sosa and sophomore guard Daquan Cook.
“I just love to see us playing hard and playing together,” said Dejean-Jones, who averaged 10.3 points last season and is the leading returning scorer. “We have great team chemistry and everybody really likes each other. I’m really excited about this team.”
UNLV lost three seniors — Anthony Marshall, Justin Hawkins and Quintrell Thomas — and three other major contributors from a 25-10 team that reached the NCAA Tournament.
Mike Moser, the team leader going into last season, transferred to Oregon for his senior year. Katin Reinhardt, a freshman starter, transferred to Southern California. Freshman forward Anthony Bennett went No. 1 in the NBA Draft to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“Right now, we’ve got a long, long way to go,” Rice said. “We’ve got an opportunity to have a very good season.”
Bennett and former Rebels coach Jerry Tarkanian, who sat courtside, were honored on a video tribute before the scrimmage. Tarkanian was enshrined into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in early September.
A 10-minute Legends game featured stars of the past, including Anderson Hunt, Tyrone Nesby and Robert Smith.
Redshirt freshman Charles Rushman, a walk-on guard, teamed with Alana Cesarz of the Lady Rebels to win a 3-point contest.
Birch and Dejean-Jones each threw down impressive dunks to give the fans something positive to take away from the scrimmage.
UNLV’s first exhibition game is Nov. 1 against Dixie State.
“We thank the fans for coming out and supporting us,” Dejean-Jones said. “We’ve got a long road ahead.”
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at email@example.com or 702-387-2907. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.