Thursday afternoon’s UNLV basketball practice at the Thomas & Mack Center featured the most sustained 5-on-5 action of the first week.
The team divided into three groups and played full court, three possessions at a time.
Senior Rene Rougeau was impressive early on. On one series, he hit a jumper on one end of the floor and then got back and blocked a short jumper by freshman Brice Massamba.
Tre’Von Willis looks to get quite a bit of time at point guard this season, but he committed several turnovers during the session.
Forward Darris Santee made a good move in the lane, only to miss a short shot. He followed up the miss with a nice tip-in over center Beas Hamga.
A few possessions later, Hamga backed into the lane and worked to improve his position until freeing himself up for a dunk. He then ran back defensively and helped get a steal that he converted into his second consecutive dunk off a feed from Rougeau.
Two newcomers matched each other later in practice. Oscar Bellfield drove through everyone for a layup on one end of the floor. Santee then got the ball at the free-throw line with his back to the basket on the other end. He squared up and knocked in a 15-foot jumper.
Mareceo Rutledge had a very good practice. He got his hands on several passes, made a very nice pass to WInk Adams for a backdoor layup, knocked down several jump shots and had a steal and breakaway layup.
Adams, on the other hand, struggled. The senior guard turned the ball over several times trying to make spectacular passes and was inconsistent with his jump shot. He still was able to showcase his uncanny ability to get to the basket just about at will.
Rougeau was pesky. He got his hands on everything in his area defensively and pulled down a few offensive rebounds.
It was another 2 1/2-hour practice for the team as it prepares for a grueling season.
"It’s been pretty good," Massamba said of his first week of official practice. "It’s been long, but I still like it."
Take a breather
Several times throughout each practice, the team breaks into two groups and shoots free throws at opposite ends of the court. Whichever group makes fewer has to run.
In case of a tie, the game goes to sudden death.
One player at a time shoots in front of the entire team to determine which group has to run.
The contest puts players under pressure to make free throws in order to avoid making his group run.
On Thursday, sudden death didn’t work. One at a time, each player went to the line and each converted until the entire team had shot.
The solution: Nobody had to run.
Willis walked off the court early and went immediately back to the locker room to get ice applied to his right knee.
He returned to the court with the ice packs on to watch the remainder of practice.
The team hosted a group of children from the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth on Thursday.
Following practice, the players shot around and played with the underprivleged kids.
Massamba had a smile on his face the entire time as he and Hamga took turns lifting little ones up to dunk the ball.
"I love kids, so if this helps them at all, I would do it every day," he said.
The event is called "Dunk and Dine," and it was designed to celebrate the efforts NPHY has made to fight homelessness among Nevada’s youth.
Rebels coach Lon Kruger is an honorary board member of the organization. His wife, Barb, is a board member.