Wallace injury leaves hole in Rebels’ sharp-shooting role

Nothing about the split second that ended Kendall Wallace’s season seemed out of the ordinary. He leaped to catch a pass, landed and started to turn left.

"It’s a move I made a million times," he said.

Only this one time, the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee blew out. A burning sensation followed for about 30 seconds, and two weeks later, on Sept. 16, Wallace had surgery.

A proverb says bad things come in threes, and that was the tale of the offseason for UNLV.

The first to fall was senior forward Matt Shaw, whose career was cut short in April after he failed a random drug test and was issued a one-year suspension.

In late June, senior guard Tre’Von Willis was arrested for allegedly assaulting a female friend. He recently pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery-domestic violence and will serve a three-game suspension.

The injury to Wallace, a 6-foot-4-inch senior guard, was the third setback to strike the basketball team.

"It’s just a freak accident," he said this week while watching practice and limping in a knee brace. "It definitely was shocking. It hurt emotionally. You’re not ready for anything like that."

Wallace will redshirt and work toward returning for the 2011-12 season. But who can replace the Rebels’ 3-point shooting specialist?

"I don’t know that any one guy will do it exactly like Kendall did it, because he basically just shot 3s," coach Lon Kruger said.

Wallace made a team-high 61 3-pointers as a junior, when he started nine of 34 games and averaged 6.9 points. Shaw was UNLV’s top 3-point shooter by percentage (.450, 27 of 60), and Wallace was No. 2 (.399). The rest of the Rebels’ key returnees shot a combined 30.4 percent from long range, led by junior point guard Oscar Bellfield (.372, 48 of 129).

The 3-point shot is a major part of Kruger’s offensive system. While he suspects UNLV might attempt fewer this season, he mainly wants to see players such as Willis, senior Derrick Jasper, junior Chace Stanback and sophomores Justin Hawkins and Anthony Marshall sharpen their skills from the perimeter.

"All those guys will hopefully improve their percentages," Kruger said.

Attacking the basket on dribble drives and dumping the ball inside to the big men, Bellfield said, could become more of a priority.

"I think we’re going to try to get to the free-throw line a lot," Bellfield said. "We’ve got a nice inside presence, so we’re really going to take advantage of that. We’ve got some big, physical guys down there who can really score the ball and get to the line."

Although the freshmen might not attempt many 3s, 6-11 Carlos Lopez and 6-6 Karam Mashour show abilities to score inside and out.

"We have a lot of guys who are capable of knocking down outside jump shots. I think we’ll be good from long range," Wallace said.

"I know Anthony isn’t going to shoot like he did last year from 3. He’s really worked hard on his shot. Oscar can shoot the ball real well, and Chace has really stepped us his 3-point game."

The Rebels have hit at least one 3-point shot in an NCAA-record 772 consecutive games, a streak that dates to 1986. Wallace, who made seven 3s in UNLV’s 74-62 victory at New Mexico on Jan. 9, cannot help extend the streak this season.

While Wallace faces "six or seven months before I even start playing," he said he plans to graduate next summer with a degree in multidisciplinary studies and a minor in marketing and then begin his Master’s work.

"Once I tore my ACL, I started noticing everybody else who was tearing theirs, a bunch of football guys and (Purdue star) Robbie Hummel. It’s a lot more common than I thought," Wallace said.

"I’ve been looking at it in positive ways. I get an extra year of school for free, and I get to be around these guys for another year, which is always fun. I’m looking forward to that day when I can play again."

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

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