The 2015-16 season is an important one for the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, as an influx of talent combined with some solid returnees is expected to pay dividends on the court. Add in the fact that the program has missed out on the NCAA tournament in each of the last two seasons, with UNLV yet to win a tournament game under the leadership of head coach Dave Rice, and 2015-16 sets up as a campaign that could set the tone for years to come as well.
Even with the addition of players such as grad student Ike Nwamu and freshmen Stephen Zimmerman and Derrick Jones, Rice and his staff still have a scholarship at their disposal for the 2015-16 season. And according to Matt Youmans of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, there are a couple possibilities when it comes to filling that scholarship.
UNLV’s still in the running for former Florida guard Eli Carter, who’s also considering Memphis and Georgetown and will be eligible immediately, and 2016 commit Justin Jackson could reclassify to 2015. Or, UNLV could simply leave the scholarship open.
Rice is planning to utilize more players and frequent three-guard lineups next season. He envisions a team that plays pressure defense and runs, and he needs depth to execute his plan. But he already has 12 scholarship players who are expecting to see significant minutes, and Carter would be the 13th. No college coach in the country uses more than 10 players regularly.
Jackson, a highly touted UNLV commit, left Findlay Prep a year early with hopes of reclassifying as a 2015 recruit, but his status remains in limbo. Jackson made Canada’s Under-19 National Team roster and will compete in the FIBA World Championships in late June.
With the Under-19 World Championships running through July 5 it’s unknown when Jackson, who attended Findlay Prep last season, would make a decision regarding his status. UNLV has depth on the perimeter and in the paint, and as the report notes they have players who are expecting to be factors in the rotation.
They’ll all have to compete for minutes, but the question for Rice is whether he’d have the right balance with 12 players or if there’s a need for one more. And the answer will have an impact on whether or not the Runnin’ Rebels rebound from a disappointing 2014-15 campaign.