Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tre'von Willis Retrospective - Part Three

2009-10 Season

UNLV was projected to finish 3rd place in the pre-season MWC poll, behind BYU and SDSU. Willis’s longtime friend Derrick Jasper was finally ready to suit up and play after recovering from micro-fracture surgery on his left knee. UNLV’s position in the coaches pre-season picks had the Rebels at number 53, not the team to beat - but still threatening.
Willis had an extra coach in this corner before the start of the season, Kwanza Nelum. Nelum was Willis’s childhood friend whom his mother took in when he was experiencing family problems. Nelum started Willis on a drill to 3166 shots from all different parts of the court. Nelum was also dedicated to making Willis a better free-throw shooter.
The roster that season consisted of Darris Santee, Brice Massamba, Oscar Bellfield, Derrick Jasper, Tre’Von Willis, Kendall Wallace, Steve “chopper” Jones, Anthony Marshall, Chase Stanback, Justin Hawkins, and Matt Shaw. The pre-season started with an unexpectedly difficult win against division II Washburn, Rebels winning 62-52. Washburn would turn to be an anomaly as UNLV embarrassed Pittsburg State 91-52 in the home opener. Willis led all scorers with 17 in that game. The starters and roles were more defined this season, Bellfield had cemented his place at point guard, and Willis was comfortable at shooting guard, and Jasper on the court as an additional guard. Massamba was the starting center and Stanback playing forward. Kruger’s 3 guard offense would prove effective, leading the Rebels to a 4-0 start until they re-matched Louisville, this time at the Mack, and the Cardinal came in ranked No. 16. The Rebels pulled a 76-71 upset against Pitino’s team lead by 17 points from Oscar “Cardinal Killer” Bellfield and 16 points, 9 assists from Willis.
The Rebels lead by Willis pulled out to a 12-2 record and then faced their nemesis, BYU. Coming into the BYU game Willis was held to 0-6 shooting in Hawaii against USC in an unexpected loss. Despite 24 points from Willis, the Rebels blew a late game lead and fell to #25 BYU 77-73. Luckily, the next test had more positive results, and the Rebels game into The Pit and defeated #15 New Mexico 74-62. Kendall Wallace was the story of the game, who was as potent as Jimmer was this season from the three-point line and dropped 21 points. Willis had a lot to do with that win as well, adding 20 points and 4 assists in only 27 minutes of action. More impressive, Willis’s efforts in Provo and Albuquerque came on a injured left ankle. In the first SDSU game of the season, the Rebels surged in the second half powered by Willis and Stanback, Willis added 23 points in 36 mins as they downed the Aztecs 76-66. The season continued to roll, most games Willis would be the leading scorer, most games the Rebels would win. The lone anomaly was a three game losing streak to New Mexico, SDSU, and Utah (who beat us twice that season). One unfortunate piece of the puzzle leading into post-season play was Jasper’s injury in late January that would sideline him for the rest of the season. The Rebels finished the regular season 23-7, and went into the MWC championships, won two games but came up short against SDSU in the final (45-55 L).
Because of the impressive wins against ranked teams and overall record (25- 8) UNLV earned an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament, and met Northern Iowa in the Kansas bracket (déjà vu). Besides the last minute 3-pointer that sunk an otherwise close and competitive game (final score 66-69 L), Tre’von actually struggled a bit in that game, he was 5-15 (33%) from the field and only 13 points in 37 minutes of play. Matt Shaw, who rolled his would-be senior season into a doobie and smoked it away (NCAA 1 year suspension ended collegiate career), was the leading scorer that game with 14 points. Northern Iowa’s success against Kansas left many of us Rebels fans wondering if we also could have beaten Kansas should Northern Iowa not been so lucky, we’ll never know.

Tre’von Willis had many accolades that season. He led UNLV and was second in the MWC in scoring with a 17.2 points per game average accumulating his highest collegiate offensive performance. In conference-only games, he led the league in scoring with 20.3 ppg. He was named first team All-MWC and was a member of the league's all-defensive team.  Willis played in all 33 games, starting  28 games. He averaged 3.9 rebounds (third on the team), 3.5 assists (second on the team) and 1.2 steals per game. Shot 47.8 percent from the field, 29.5 percent from 3-point range and 85.8 percent from the free-throw line. His seasonal free-throw percentage tied for sixth best in UNLV history, and he knew how to get to the line as his 163 made free throws ranks eighth on the all-time UNLV chart for free throws made in a season. Was seventh in the MWC in apg, third in free-throw percentage, sixth in field-goal percentage, 10th in steals and ninth in assist-to-turnover ratio – he was the complete package.  

As a scoring leader, he scored in double figures in 29 games, including scoring 20 or more points in a game 11 times and 30 or more three times. He had a six-game stretch in January of 2009 where he scored 20 or more in each game. Willis led the Runnin' Rebels in scoring in 21 Games. Willis scored a career-high 33 points against BYU, while also handing out eight assists and not committing a turnover in 38 minutes on the floor. Willis was named ESPN.com's National Player of the Week after that performance. He recorded his first career double-double with 13 points and 10 assists against New Mexico. He made each of his last 29 free throw attempts of the season, which is now the UNLV record for consecutive free throws made by a player. Obviously, he was voted team MVP by his teammates.
In spite of the post-season heartbreak in the first-round, the Rebels felt generally positive about what they had accomplished over the course of the season and optimistic about the future. The dynamic Willis would return for his senior season along with a supporting cast who achieved great things in 09-10.

Off-season between 2009-10 and 2010-11

In late June, a twist in Willis’s personal life would dominate the conversation and put a caveat on his upcoming season. Henderson police alleged that Willis choked a female acquaintance at her apartment at 3 AM. In September Willis pled no contest to misdemeanor battery, and made a statement about what occurred where he admitted to grabbing the woman and dumping her purse, but he did not choke her. Willis’s crime in terms of UNLV Basketball, levied a 3 game suspension at the beginning of the season.

In August, Willis had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. It was apparent that his suspension coincided with the fact that Willis likely was not recovered enough to play or make a significant contribution anyhow. Just how significant the knee injury / recovery would be in comparison to the other issues was hard to fathom.

According to Willis, becoming a parent helped him deal with the challenges he faced in the off-season. In September 2010 Willis’s daughter was born, named Tremiyah . Willis looked forward to the experience of fatherhood, as he didn’t have one growing up.

Total Games in 2009-2010: 34
2009-11-14PITTST 52, UNLV 9124175-862.57-7100.00-30.012341022
2009-11-18NEV 75, UNLV 881382-633.34-4100.00-10.013411002
2009-11-21SIU 69, UNLV 7826258-1172.77-7100.02-366.707740032
2009-11-25HC 59, UNLV 8028147-1163.60-00-20.024631133
2009-11-28Lville 71, UNLV 7632165-1338.55-771.41-714.324691044
2009-12-02UNLV 74, Arizona 7240259-1947.46-6100.01-425.013410023
2009-12-05UNLV 66, SCU 6323145-955.63-475.01-333.310152004
2009-12-12K-State 95, UNLV 8027175-771.44-4100.03-560.003320033
2009-12-15UNLV 77, SUU 5922165-1145.55-683.31-520.011244023
2009-12-17WEBER 63, UNLV 722393-837.52-2100.01-425.013422131
2009-12-19UPSTATE 58, UNLV 88---
2009-12-22SMU 53, UNLV 6725125-1338.51-1100.01-425.013422052
2009-12-23UNLV 77, HAWAII 5312124-850.02-2100.02-540.021300014
2009-12-25USC 67, UNLV 562940-60.04-4100.00-40.011241115
2010-01-06UNLV 73, BYU 7734249-1656.24-580.02-450.015640072
2010-01-09UNLV 74, Lobos 6227206-1346.27-887.51-425.002242014
2010-01-13SDSU 66, UNLV 7636236-1540.010-1376.91-333.302210012
2010-01-16UTAH 73, UNLV 6939277-1643.813-1681.20-40.006641041
2010-01-20UNLV 80, CSU 7232216-1154.57-887.52-540.013412124
2010-01-23UNLV 79, TCU 7031309-1464.311-1478.61-425.024641122
2010-01-26AF 50, UNLV 6032133-837.56-6100.01-425.002201060
2010-02-03UNLV 78, WYO 5031154-757.16-966.71-333.308840011
2010-02-06BYU 74, UNLV 88383311-2055.07-977.84-757.114582102
2010-02-10Lobos 76, UNLV 6638134-1330.84-666.71-520.0224103033
2010-02-13UNLV 58, SDSU 6838175-1533.36-875.01-520.003351032
2010-02-17UNLV 61, UTAH 66373211-1957.97-977.83-650.002223022
2010-02-20CSU 39, UNLV 7027112-633.36-6100.01-333.303331022
2010-02-24TCU 62, UNLV 7822165-771.44-4100.02-450.013433022
2010-02-27UNLV 77, AF 472493-933.32-2100.01-616.704440042
2010-03-06WYO 56, UNLV 7433209-1560.01-1100.01-425.044851031
2010-03-11UTAH 61, UNLV 7335135-1145.52-2100.01-425.005520145
2010-03-12UNLV 70, BYU 6636185-955.66-6100.02-540.002211023
2010-03-13SDSU 55, UNLV 4535114-1233.32-2100.01-520.010132023
2010-03-18UNI 69, UNLV 6636135-1533.32-2100.01-425.013452003

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