It’s not just another game for Evan Roquemore. He admitted this one means a little more. But it’s not a grudge match.
Roquemore grew up in Las Vegas and attended several UNLV basketball games, and he’s going to another one tonight.
“It’s definitely a heightened sense for this game,” the Santa Clara senior guard said. “I’m excited, I think more so for the fact I’m playing in my hometown in front of family and friends, people who haven’t had a chance to see me play much the past four years.
“The opponent definitely makes it sweeter. But that’s not on my mind as much.”
Roquemore and the Broncos (6-5) take on the Rebels (6-4) in a Las Vegas Classic semifinal at 7:30 p.m. at Orleans Arena. The winner will face Mississippi State or South Florida in the championship on Monday night.
UNLV coach Dave Rice has had Roquemore on his mind while preparing his game plan. While he was a Brigham Young assistant, Rice recruited the former Foothill High standout.
“I was very impressed with him as a high school player, and he’s gotten better every year,” Rice said. “He’s a distributor at point guard when he needs to be, but when they need a basket, he makes big shots. He’s a tough guy to cover.”
The 6-foot-3-inch Roquemore drew serious interest from Ball State, Boise State, Fairfield, UC Riverside and a handful of other schools, but he got only a casual glance from Lon Kruger and the Rebels’ former coaching staff.
“They never recruited him,” Foothill coach Kevin Soares said. “They never called me or called him at all.”
Roquemore, who also was on the Falcons’ tennis and track teams, scored a school-record 44 points against Eldorado in the first game of his senior season. The UNLV coaches went to a few Foothill games, Soares said, but that was it.
“The kid’s work ethic was far and away one of the best I’ve ever seen,” Soares said. “I thought he was one of the two best guards in the city, if not the state. If you’re that good of a player, I think you should be recruited by your hometown school.”
Of course, the Rebels can’t offer scholarships to every hometown shooting star, and Roquemore was not bitter.
“I’m not angry at certain schools for not recruiting me,” he said. “But it did put a chip on my shoulder. It’s always motivation.”
Roquemore went to Santa Clara and started writing in the history books. He is the school’s all-time assists leader, recently passing Steve Nash and Brian Jones, and ranks in the top 20 in career scoring with 1,412 points.
In a 70-61 victory over Sacred Heart on Wednesday, Roquemore scored 17 points, his 78th career game in double figures.
“Roquemore is a very good player, and he’s had a terrific career,” Rice said.
After missing three games in November with a back injury, Roquemore is back in form, averaging 12.0 points and shooting 39.5 percent (15 of 38) from 3-point range.
The Broncos attempt 20.5 3-pointers per game, with Roquemore flanked in the backcourt by junior Brandon Clark and freshman Jared Brownridge, the team’s top two scorers.
“I came here knowing I was going to have to work for everything I got,” Roquemore said. “It has been what I wanted to accomplish in my career.”
His parents, Bryan and Margaret, are UNLV graduates but probably won’t be torn by their allegiances tonight.
“They will have Santa Clara gear on,” Roquemore said.
“It’s great to be in my hometown, but it’s nothing where it’s going to affect the way I play.”
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.