It will be another five months until UNLV sophomore Tre'Von Willis plays in a game that really counts. But the day he circled on his calendar has passed.
That was Tuesday, when the Rebels opened practice and Willis finally felt like a true member of the team.
"I've been thinking about it every day before I go to sleep," said Willis, who redshirted last season after transferring from Memphis.
"I really don't remember the last game I played. I love playing basketball, and my life was just not complete without it. I'm ready to get back, and I'm excited about it, too."
Willis is one of many who are enthusiastic about the future of UNLV basketball.
The Rebels are allowed 10 practice days before leaving June 23 for a two-week tour of Australia, where they are scheduled to play six exhibition games.
An estimated total of 200 fans showed up to watch coach Lon Kruger run two intense practices in the Cox Pavilion practice gym. The fans caught a glimpse of the past, present and future.
Kevin Kruger and Wendell White, seniors on the 2006-07 team that reached the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16, joined the workouts. The NCAA allows teams taking a foreign tour to add former players for occasional practices.
UNLV's four seniors -- Wink Adams, Joe Darger, Rene Rougeau and Mareceo Rutledge -- all showed why expectations remain high following last season's 27-8 finish.
Willis, a candidate to start at point guard next season, and redshirt freshman center Beas Hamga promise to play a big part in the future.
Kevin Kruger, draining 3-pointers from everywhere, was the best player on the floor during the afternoon practice. Kruger and White played in the NBA Development League last season.
The 6-foot-4-inch Willis could be the point guard following in the footsteps of Kruger and departed senior Curtis Terry.
"Tre'Von likes to run up and down and get assists," Adams said. "He's a good defender, and he can shoot it. He's aggressive to score, so he can make the defense play him and get us open shots."
But the starting point guard competition is not a one-man race. Sophomore Kendall Wallace appears more than capable of doing the job, and incoming freshman Oscar Bellfield will get a shot.
"I think among the three of them, we'll have good point play," Lon Kruger said.
"Tre'Von just needs game reps and reps in practice. He's a tough guy who competes really hard. He'll take awhile to settle into a rhythm that's comfortable for him."
As a freshman at Memphis, Willis played in only 17 of 37 games and averaged 2.6 points. He scored 23.4 points per game as a senior at Washington Union High in Fresno, Calif.
Willis practiced with the Rebels last season -- and said he earned a 3.2 grade-point average in the spring semester -- but did not enjoy his role as a spectator.
"It was a long season, but I'm just glad I toughed it out," he said. "I expect to work hard, and I expect to do what the coaches tell me.
"No more looking at everybody else's jersey hanging up in the lockers. I'm ready to go. I'm just expecting to do great things."
Willis said an immediate goal is to convince his longtime friend, Kentucky transfer Derrick Jasper, to commit to UNLV on his campus visit this weekend.
• NOTES -- Junior forward Matt Shaw sat out the afternoon practice with a right knee injury. Shaw said he hopes the injury is only a bruise and he can return soon. ... Lon Kruger said former Rebels Louis Amundson and Joel Anthony might participate in upcoming practices.