UNLV’s veterans aren’t giving up their minutes without a fight

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All of the offseason talk about UNLV has centered around who Dave Rice is bringing in.

And rightfully so, as his recruiting haul has netted him one of the deepest and most talented front lines in the country, headlined by junior Mike Moser, freshman Anthony Bennett and Pitt transfer Khem Birch, who will become eligible in December.

While the hype may be deserved, it has also irked a couple members of the team: namely Carlos Lopez and Quintrell Thomas, the two veteran big men who have seen their playing time vanish in the eyes of fans and media members alike.

“I’ve been listening to a lot of people talking about how me and Q aren’t even going to play anymore and we’re getting replaced; that’s just motivation,” Lopez told Taylor Bern of the Las Vegas Sun. “That’s stuff we like to hear to use to our advantage.”

They have been. Thomas has lost 15 pounds and worked on becoming a better player away from the basket. Lopez has worked just as hard to get in shape and, more importantly, get healthy, “Even going to sleep at 8 instead of staying up late,” he told the Sun.

Head coach Dave Rice has noticed the work, and hopefully the Rebel’s more talented big men have as well.

Competition is a good thing on a team. As a head coach, you want to have more talent than minutes available. You want players to continue to improve and to continue to fight for playing time. It benefits the team in the long run, with stronger practices and the motivation to avoid slipping up. Bennett, for example, cannot slack off when he knows that a veteran like Lopez is working his tail off to get on the floor.

The key for Rice is going to be maintaining that level of competition while keeping everyone happy if they don’t end up getting the minutes they think they deserve. In the end, he needs to get each and every player on his roster to buy into one idea: that what is best for the team will be best for the individual.

That’s not an easy thing to do.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.