Health, timing deter Willis

With a quick leap from the baseline, UNLV guard Tre’Von Willis grabbed a rebound with his right hand and dunked.

He showed a perfect sense of timing on the play during Thursday’s practice. It served as proof that his right hamstring injury is healing and that he might be ready to return to the Rebels’ starting lineup.

A separated right shoulder has bothered Willis for most of the season. A pulled hamstring has been a nuisance to him lately.

"The right side of my body is all messed up," Willis said.

His timing is not always right, either.

Willis is likely to start when UNLV (18-6, 6-4 Mountain West Conference) hosts Colorado State (8-16, 3-7) at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Rebels coach Lon Kruger said he’ll see how well Willis practices today before deciding on a lineup.

Willis, a 6-foot-4-inch sophomore, made 10 consecutive starts before coming off the bench in UNLV’s 71-57 victory over Texas Christian on Tuesday. Willis took himself out of the lineup — and not necessarily because of an injury.

He subbed in early, played 28 minutes and finished with 11 points and five assists. But he was late to the arena, arriving about 30 minutes before the 7 p.m. game.

"I got caught in traffic," Willis said. "I got here something crazy, like 30 minutes before the tipoff. It was pushing it. It was an unusual situation. I should have left the house earlier, just in case of some situation like that."

Kruger requires players to report 90 minutes before game time, and he does not accept "caught in traffic" as an excuse.

"It was a combination. It was kind of a game-time decision on the hamstring, and then he got stuck in traffic and was late, so that made it an easy decision," said Kruger, who gave sophomore Kendall Wallace his first career start in place of Willis.

"We have a conversation with everyone about the importance of being on time. (Tre’Von) has done a pretty good job. Our guys know that’s one of the things you have to take care of is being on time. You can’t have 15 guys waiting on one."

Willis also was pulled from the starting lineup for the Rebels’ game at UNR on Dec. 6 because he overslept and was late for a practice.

Minor disciplinary issues and injuries aside, Willis’ play is sharper.

He is averaging 11.1 points per game — second on the team to senior Wink Adams’ 14.3 average — and in recent victories over Utah and Air Force, Willis totaled 24 points, 17 assists and one turnover.

"If you take a look at his assist-to-turnover ratio in the last half dozen to eight games, it has been much improved," Kruger said.

Willis has 45 assists and 16 turnovers in the past 10 games, compared with 35 assists and 41 turnovers in the first 14 games.

After taking a cortisone shot in his shoulder last week, Willis said that injury is not a factor.

"I feel I can’t do some things not being 100 percent on the leg," he said, "but I’m still trying to do more little things to help this team get over the hump."

Contact reporter Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907.

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