weather icon Partly Cloudy

6 UNLV players to watch in Kevin Kruger’s 3rd season

Updated July 31, 2023 - 3:06 pm

Kevin Kruger is about to enter his third season as UNLV basketball head coach and likely has his most talented group thus far. With a combination of transfers and returners, the Rebels have a chance to compete in the Mountain West.

Here are six players to watch in the 2023-24 season.

1. Dedan Thomas

The present and future all balled up into one. One of the best prep point guards nationally and a local out of Liberty High, Thomas was a five-star recruit who reclassified in order to join the Rebels for the 2023-24 season.

The 6-foot-1 standout averaged 22.8 points and 5.1 assists as a junior at Liberty. The Patriots made back-to-back state championship games under his leadership on the court. Named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Nevada, Thomas should be given the keys to run the UNLV offense. He is the son of former UNLV star Dedan Thomas Sr.

2. Justin Webster

Not a secret for anyone who follows the updated roster — this team needs more shooting. Like a Lot more. That’s where Webster comes in. He shot 46 percent from 3 last season. While matching such a number would be overly difficult, the Rebels still need the senior to be a consistent threat from outside.

3. Luis Rodriguez

The senior forward is a versatile defender who needs to follow those skills at one end with a more efficient offensive game at the other. Rodriguez shot under 30 percent from 3 last season.

But in a league where the best team (San Diego State) prides itself on producing multi-faceted players on defense, Rodriguez could be such a talent for the Rebels. He just needs to be far more consistent putting the ball in the basket as he is at denying it.

4. Jalen Hill

He has come home hoping to make a difference. A former state Gatorade Player of the Year out of Clark High, Hill started 67 games over the last two years for Oklahoma. He was an All-Big 12 honorable mention selection.

He needs to shoot better from distance — also under 30 percent from 3 — but has needed size at 6-7 and 225 pounds. Hill averaged 9.7 points and 5.8 rebounds over the last few seasons with the Sooners.

5A. Keylan Boone

A transfer from Pacific, he’s the type of offensive player the Rebels need at the wing spot. He averaged a team-best 13.9 points for the Tigers last season after playing three years at Oklahoma State. Boone also made 41 percent of his 3s and averaged just over four rebounds at Pacific.

With a playmaker like Thomas running the show, Boone could absolutely make opponents pay with his offensive skill set.

5B. Kalib Boone

The twin brother of Keylan, this Boone instead does his work inside at 6-foot-9. A transfer from Oklahoma State, Kalib averaged 10.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and shot nearly 59 percent from the field in just 21.3 minutes per game last season. He’s the post presence UNLV needs, a player who’s efficient offensively at the rim and can protect it at the other end.

Contact sports columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.