Unlike most of his new UNLV teammates, Cody Doolin knows what it takes to win college basketball games. He talks about diving for loose balls, taking charges and doing all of the little things that can make a big difference.
Doolin has walked in graduation ceremonies and holds a degree in finance from the University of San Francisco, where he started all 103 games of his career.
Meanwhile, Rashad Vaughn and four other Rebels freshmen ran through their first official practice Monday at the Mendenhall Center.
“There is going to be a period of learning, but they are not your typical freshmen,” Doolin said. “I think they are poised to have a good year.”
Doolin, who transferred to UNLV over the summer, is the point guard imparting his wisdom to the team’s young guns. His experience should be invaluable to a team in need of a veteran’s direction.
“From the first day he arrived, Cody has been a great leader on and off the court,” Vaughn said. “He’s the piece we need for this team.”
Of the 10 scholarship players expected to see the floor for the Rebels this season, eight are freshmen and sophomores. But coach Dave Rice said he won’t use youth as an alibi if UNLV encounters growing pains during a difficult nonconference schedule, and Vaughn reiterated that point.
The Rebels are set to face Stanford, Arizona State, Utah, Arizona, Kansas and possibly Duke in the first two months of the season.
“I feel our youth, that’s not really an excuse,” said Vaughn, a McDonald’s All-American from Findlay Prep. “I feel the freshmen we have are not really freshmen. They are more advanced, so that’s not really a worry.”
The highly touted incoming class also includes 6-foot-10-inch center Goodluck Okonoboh, 6-8 forward Dwayne Morgan and 6-6 guards Jordan Cornish and Patrick McCaw, all of whom appear physically mature and capable of contributing immediately.
Vaughn, a 6-6 shooting guard, and Doolin already have developed a strong bond in the backcourt.
“Cody is very important to this team,” Rice said. “He has been a terrific leader for us.”
In preseason practices, Rice said his “main focus is effort and camaraderie,” two areas in which the Rebels were deficient last season.
Vaughn predicted this team will thrive because of its cohesion and commitment.
“We’re working hard every day,” Vaughn said. “We do a lot of team stuff together. We go to movies together, hang out, go to late-night open gym. Whatever it is to build chemistry, we do it. Every guy on this team is a great guy. Everything is going smooth.”
Doolin and Vaughn will be major factors in two others areas that were weaknesses last season — point guard play and shooting.
In Rice’s first two seasons, UNLV ranked second and 10th in the nation in assists. Last season, when the Rebels shot 32.9 percent from 3-point range, they slipped to 125th in assists. Doolin ranks No. 2 all time at San Francisco with 451 assists, and Vaughn is considered the Rebels’ best perimeter shooter.
“We have a lot of outside threats,” Vaughn said. “Everybody can shoot it.”
UNLV will stage its Scarlet &Gray Showcase scrimmage, a free fan event, at 7 p.m. on Oct. 16 at the Thomas &Mack Center.
The Rebels can hold 29 more practices before their Nov. 14 season opener against Morehead State.
“I’m ready to go,” Vaughn said. “I’m very, very excited just to be here for the first practice.”
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at email@example.com or 702-387-2907. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.