NASSAU, Bahamas — North Carolina came here two years ago to take part in a series of exhibitions and wound up losing 84-83 to one of the local teams, showing that even the nation’s best can have their problems in the Caribbean.
UNLV faces the team that beat the Tar Heels, the Providence Storm, on Thursday, but whether the Rebels win that game or their other two exhibitions is almost irrelevant.
They are here to find out more about themselves, and final scores mean little.
“The more important piece for us is practice,” UNLV coach Marvin Menzies said. “I can’t emphasize enough how valuable it is to get to know your team. You can get to know them a little bit in games … but how serious is it when you have a 24-second clock? We have international rules when we get there, so they’re going to call the game different.”
UNLV plays its first game at noon PDT Sunday against the University of Toronto at the Sir Kendal Isaacs Gym. The Rebels also face the CTG Knights on Tuesday and then the Storm, both members of the Bahamas Basketball Federation.
Toronto went 5-15 last season, losing its final seven games, but returning is 6-foot-4 inch forward Devin Johnson, who averaged 22.3 points and 7.7 rebounds. He is joined by 6-2 guard Devon Williams, who averaged 11.5 points.
As for the two Bahamian teams?
“We’ve got absolutely nothing on them right now, and I don’t think we will,” Menzies said. “That’s like the furthest thing from my mind, who we play. We’re just going to concentrate on us. I’ve been there a few times before, and I know two of the Bahamian teams will probably be very mature guys, guys that have played overseas.”
The CTG Knights played Wyoming on Tuesday, and the Cowboys emerged with an 81-74 victory. Eugene Bain, a 6-5 forward, led the Knights with 23 points and 10 rebounds, and 6-4 guard Van Hutchinson Jr. totaled 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Providence didn’t play in this event this past week, but two weeks ago, the Storm lost 107-67 to Missouri State and 92-89 to Florida Gulf Coast. Former New Mexico 6-4 guard Jeffrey Henfield (12.5 ppg) and 6-5 forward Asher Scavella (10.5 ppg) averaged in double figures.
But this trip is about more than basketball for UNLV. It’s the chance for the team, which is almost entirely new, to bond and spend time away from the court, such as going on a boat trip planned later in the week.
The trip, completely funded by the Runnin’ Rebels Club at a cost of approximately $100,000, is the culmination of three weeks of practices and games before the team gathers anew at the end of September to prepare for the season. Then the real games will begin.
But there is some value to the games this week even if the scores don’t mean much.
“It’s going to help us get off to a great start being able to play some brand new teams,” guard Uche Ofoegbu said. “It’s going to allow us to know what we have and know at an early age what we need to work on so by the time the season’s rolling, you’ll see us at a higher level and a higher standard than we would’ve been without the trip. I feel that’s a big part of this year’s success.”
Contact Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow on Twitter: @markanderson65
UNLV schedule in the Bahamas
All times PDT
Noon, Sunday: University of Toronto
2 p.m., Tuesday: CTG Knights
2 p.m., Thursday: Providence Storm