With only three returning players and no point guard to run the team, the opportunity was there last season for Jovan Mooring.
He responded by becoming the Rebels’ best player, the one they trusted in late-game situations, but point guard was never quite a snug fit for Mooring.
He’s more scorer than distributor, and now UNLV has Jordan Johnson to handle that responsibility, meaning Mooring can move to his more natural spot at two-guard.
“JoJo (Mooring) is a player who I think really gave a lot by being put in the point guard position because he wasn’t a point guard in junior college,” UNLV coach Marvin Menzies said. “I think forcing him into that thought process that a player has when they’re in that point guard position was good for JoJo, but the position he’s a little more comfortable playing is off the ball from time to time.
“So I think it gives him a little more freedom to relax and can give us a coaching advantage to put him in some situations where he may be a little more productive.”
He tried to do his part, but wasn’t surrounded by enough talent. Now the Rebels have greatly upgraded their roster, and Fanrag’s Jon Rothstein listed UNLV on Wednesday as one of five teams that are significantly better.
Mooring’s expectations are high. He said his goal was to make the NCAA Tournament.
But his optimism speaks to where UNLV is as it prepares for the new season, which begins Nov. 11 against Florida A&M at the Thomas & Mack Center.
“I feel like we had a good offseason,” Mooring said. “We’ve still got a ways to go, but I’m excited to see where we can be.”
But he tempered the expectations.
“It’s a lot more talent, but we have like eight new guys, a new core group of guys,” Mooring said. “So we still have to put the pieces together.”
UNLV will have a senior backcourt with Mooring and Johnson, often a good recipe for success, one many teams have used to make postseason runs.
“You obviously have really, really good experience and talent with those guys,” Menzies said. “One of their job descriptions is to take all of those underclassmen and get them better, hold them accountable. That’s an area where both of them have to own that.
“I think if they do that, it will work out well for us.”
Mooring might not be completely finished playing the point. He could take over when Johnson goes to the bench for a breather.
“Playing Division I point guard is not easy,” Mooring said. “I think I adjusted well to it, so I’ll take it.”
The Mooring file
Height/weight: 6-2, 205
Last season: Averaged 12.6 points and 4.0 assists to lead UNLV in both categories.