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Patience a virtue for Jasper

It will be two months until Derrick Jasper is ready to participate in basketball practices and another year until he can play in a game for UNLV. About all he can do now is sit and wait.

“I really want to be out there playing,” he said while watching the Rebels practice at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Jasper, a 6-foot-6-inch point guard, figures prominently in UNLV’s future plans. After two years at Kentucky, he announced his decision to transfer in June, and he will be a redshirt junior next season.

But there’s no need to wait for a preview of what he can do — a YouTube video of a Jasper dunk from his freshman season is featured on the Web.

In a game against South Carolina on Feb. 7, 2007, Jasper finished a fast break with a flying one-handed slam. He had six points, six assists and seven rebounds in the Wildcats’ 95-89 win.

That was before microfracture surgery on his left knee, though. Jasper needed the procedure, which repairs and regenerates damaged cartilage, in the summer of 2007. His highlight dunks disappeared.

While rehabilitating his knee, Jasper missed Kentucky’s first 10 games last season. He returned — too soon, he said — and averaged 4.2 points in 20 games.

“I was playing on a knee that wasn’t ready,” he said. “I came back in five months, and usually your knee doesn’t feel 100 percent with this type of surgery until 18 months.

“I couldn’t jump off it at all or explode off it. I know I need the year off, and that was definitely a big part of my transfer, so it makes it a lot easier sitting out.”

Jasper said he’s “taking it slow” this time. He hopes to be allowed to run and begin agility drills in about a month. He might be cleared to practice in late December.

“We’re going to err on the conservative side,” Rebels coach Lon Kruger said. “There’s no reason to rush. We’re going to make sure he’s 100 percent.”

Kruger did not need to view a YouTube dunk before welcoming Jasper, from Paso Robles, Calif., to the program.

“I didn’t see him play at all in college. I watched him play in high school when we were recruiting him a little bit,” Kruger said. “I really liked his game. He’s very unselfish and very versatile. With that size, he’s able to play really four different spots on the floor.”

UNLV senior guard Wink Adams, who played against Jasper in summer AAU competition, said the team’s future should be in good hands when he’s gone.

UCLA transfer Chace Stanback, a 6-8 sophomore swingman, also is redshirting this season. While Jasper has been watching practices, Stanback has been showing off impressive skills.

“Derrick’s long, athletic, and he can shoot it,” Adams said. “We’re bringing in quality players. I wish I had some more years. I’ll definitely come back and watch those guys play. It’s going to be exciting.”

Jasper, who started 27 games as a Kentucky freshman, said he considered Arizona and San Diego State as transfer options.

He said he picked UNLV partly because he has been friends with Tre’Von Willis since high school. Willis, from Fresno, Calif., and a sophomore transfer from Memphis, is expected to start at point guard for the Rebels.

Next year, Willis could shift to shooting guard to make room for Jasper at the point.

“Coach Kruger is a great coach, and he really knows the game. He really lets his players play,” Jasper said. “I don’t have any regrets. I’m happy where I am here. I just can’t wait to start playing.”

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

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