UNLV basketball benefits from extra exercises

UNLV basketball coach Kevin Kruger echoed an old saying of his father, Hall of Fame coach Lon, when asked about his thinking when the rebels began training on Tuesday.

“There are no shortcuts for reps,” Kruger said.

The Rebels started the first of 10 practices in preparation for their three exhibition games in Canada starting on August 16. By participating in a foreign tour, the Rebels, who finished 18-14 last season, will be allocated 10 days of full training before their exhibition play.

With eight new players, Kruger said having full workouts and playing games will help everyone get used to his system.

One of Kruger’s focuses in training is to get everyone in line, which he says will help his team be prepared when the games take place in Canada.

“A lot of people are going to discover their roles,” said freshman security guard Keyshawn Hall. “(The trip to Canada) is going to help a lot. It will let us know where we are in the season.”

During the summer, the team was allowed to train four hours a week under NCAA rules. During those workouts, Kruger said the athleticism and defensive skills shone through.

“We’re happy with the size and physicality of the roster,” Kruger said. “It gives us a lot of opportunities to do things differently because they are incredibly skilled defensively.”

Fifth-year security guard Jordan McCabe took part in an overseas trip to Spain in the summer of 2019 while in West Virginia. He attributed that trip to West Virginia’s success that season and believes the same could be true for UNLV this season.

“We don’t take these days for granted,” McCabe said. “We are here on the field and getting a full training schedule today. It especially helps our new guys.”

Six of the eight additions were transfers from Division I schools, many of whom were highly acclaimed defensive players. One of the goals for Kruger this season is to create more turnovers leading to transition violations.

“We will be able to get people to rush more, force them into turnover and go on the attack,” Kruger said. “Last year we didn’t get as many as we would like.”

While Kruger hopes he can turn defense into offense, he didn’t ignore their offensive skills. He said they can all play offensively, but may not have had the chance to play in an offensive role at their previous schools.

“We all have the ability to score at a high level,” said West Virginia transfer and former Bishop Gorman forward Isaiah Cottrell. “Anyone can score on any night.”

Kruger said the rebels will not be completely healthy if they go to Canada. Oklahoma transfer guard Elijah Harkless and striker Victor Iwuakor will not play in Canada due to an injury.

The rebels will also face a staff shortage after former assistant coach Brandon Chappell left for an assistant coach position at the University of Texas. With the departure of Chappell, Kruger will have three new assistants entering its second season.

Kruger said UNLV began the process of seeking a new assistant when talks between Chappell and Texas began, but admitted it will take time to find his replacement.

“We’re in no rush,” Kruger said. “We just want to make sure we’re doing it right.”

Contact Alex Wright at awright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlexWright1028 on Twitter.

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