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UNLV’s Bryce Hamilton hopes second chance pays off

Bryce Hamilton came in as UNLV’s top-rated recruit last season. Then the season began and Hamilton quickly became almost an afterthought, even losing time in the rotation to walk-on Marvin Coleman, who has since earned a scholarship.

Even when he did play, Hamilton looked rushed, like he needed to force his way into the action to get the coaches to notice and give him more opportunities.

By the time the season ended, Hamilton had become a bit player, averaging 13 minutes and 4.3 points over 31 games while shooting 35.3 percent.

But now, with a new coaching staff led by T.J. Otzelberger, the 6-foot-4-inch sophomore guard might be finding the opportunities he so badly sought last season.

“I think Bryce has an ability to be a really elite player in this league,” Otzelberger said Tuesday. “I think offensively he’s a matchup problem. He can get downhill with the drive. He’s shooting the ball with a lot of confidence. Right now, our challenge for him is to get his effort on the defensive end to match the offensive end. If we can get Bryce to do that, he’s going to be a tremendous player for us.”

Hamilton entered the NCAA transfer portal after last season. But after hearing Otzelberger’s vision for the program, he saw a real future for himself at UNLV and opted to stay.

“(Otzelberger) told me about his style and how I could fit in and just how we could bring back this Runnin’ Rebels group,” Hamilton said. “I kept my options open, but pretty much I wanted to stay here. I watched a couple of Coach Otz’s games at South Dakota (State) … I heard a lot of great things about him.”

Otzelberger’s system emphasizes spacing and 3-point shooting. Hamilton is hopeful he fits much better into that attack than he did under the former coach Marvin Menzies.

His summer conditioning was disrupted for two months with sprains to both ankles, but Hamiton and Otzelberger said his health is not an issue.

“I felt like it put me behind,” Hamilton said of the injuries. “I’m back now, so I’ve been working my butt off.”

UNLV signed him out of Pasadena (California) High School, where Hamilton averaged 24.4 points his senior season. He was a four-star recruit who was rated as the nation’s No. 74 prospect by Rivals. Hamilton chose the Rebels over UNR, Ohio State, Utah, Arizona State and Colorado.

Maybe this season will more up to the standards that Hamilton expects. He’ll get his first true idea Oct. 19 when UNLV hosts Pepperdine in a closed-door scrimmage. The Rebels then play West Coast Baptist College in an exhibition at the Thomas & Mack Center on Oct. 25.

”He’s going to be an impact player for us,” Otzelberger said. “Whether that’s in the starting lineup or whether that’s coming in off the bench, I’ve got a lot of confidence in him and what he can do for us.”

More Rebels: Follow at reviewjournal.com/Rebels and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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