First Look at UNLV Basketball: Rebel Big Men Shine

Chris GolightlyCorrespondent IOctober 17, 2009

OMAHA, NE - MARCH 20:  Matt Shaw #34 of the UNLV Runnin' Rebels celebrates an offensive play against the Kent State Golden Flashes Vikings during the Midwest Region first round of the 2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament on March 20, 2008 at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Nebraska.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

UNLV fans got a sneak preview of the 2009-2010 Rebels on Friday night, and the big men stole the show.


Small ball has been a buzz word around Las Vegas the last two years. Coach Lon Kruger discovered that playing a three-point shooter at center creates offensive mismatches.


Eventually, conference rivals began exploiting those same mismatches at the other end, much to the dismay of Rebel fans everywhere.


Small ball is officially dead.


On a night that was supposed to be the coming out party of finally-eligible transfers Derrick Jasper and Chace Stanback, the two were a footnote, overshadowed; all but forgotten.


Jasper threw down a couple of flashy dunks in warm-ups, but was a non-factor in scrimmage action.


The dancing referee was a bigger hit.


Stanback wore a sweatshirt and sat in a chair.  He is nursing a minor ankle injury suffered in a pick up game earlier this week.  


Rebel fans will have to wait a little longer to see what the duo is capable of. However, all was not lost.


The most pressing concern the city of Las Vegas had for their beloved hoopsters is whether the big men can play.


Question answered; concerns forgotten, at least for now.


All four big men played well.  All four big men showed flashes of brilliance.  All four big men showed they can score inside; they can score outside; they can block, rebound, shoot, pass, and run the floor.


Thoughts that seemed insane days ago begin to creep to the forefront of curious minds:


Santee a starter? Massamba and Lopez on the floor together? Shaw at small forward? 20 fouls to give without a drop off in production? From worst to first in rebounding?


This is the time of year where a fan's imagination runs wild. The collective performance of the UNLV big men did nothing but fuel the fire.


Particularly impressive were Brice Massamba and Matt Shaw. Shaw is back from a medical redshirt, and looked faster, stronger, and better than ever. He also reminded all of his feathery shooting touch.


Massamba was everywhere. He plays basketball with the reckless abandon and youthful enthusiasm of a school yard kid playing tag during recess. 


He is 40 pounds lighter, and displayed explosiveness and quickness; two words unlikely to be associated with last year's Brice Massamba, unless they were describing his method of cheeseburger consumption. 


Massamba may be lighter, but he and his teammates still have plenty of weight they can throw around in the paint.


For the first time in three years, the Rebels will have a balanced offensive attack; an inside-outside game.


Small ball is fast becoming a distant memory.


The future at UNLV is big.