Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Desert Reign: Impressions of UNLV’s Talent - Part I

By Jason Taylor

(Part 2 will be released Saturday night)

I had a bout of RWS - Rebel Withdraw Syndrome - and  was unable to attend games recently in person, so I searched the net and found videos of several Desert Reign Pro-city League games on

Several Rebels joined the league this summer, and Rebel fans turned out in numbers.  The air conditioning system was broken in one game, but red clad fans completely filled the stands regardless of the near 100-degree indoor temps, and hung in to gain measure and give support to the new arrivals, and a few seniors.  That was a nice sight.  DaQuan Cook made a comment about how all these people were cheering as he and Savon Goodman walked into the gym, even though the fans had never even seen them play before.

I was able to watch games that included Anthony Marshall, Justin Hawkins, Khem Birch, Bryce Jones, Katin Reinhardt, DaQuan Cook, Demetris Morant, and Savon Goodman.

There were never more than 2 current Rebels on each team.

The competition was stout enough to gain perspective, I believe.  Although, of course, it is only a few games of loosely run scrimmages, so we obviously have to take that for what its worth in my analysis.  Several players rooted in the Las Vegas area were in attendance, including Darrington Hobson (of UNM, and NBA Bucks), Jamaal Smith (UNM grad), Billy White (SDSU grad), Pierre Jackson (Baylor), Romel Beck (UNLV grad), Marcus Lawrence (former UNLV point guard), and several overseas pro players.  

Here’s what struck me with each Rebel:

Anthony Marshall at Desert Reign
One of the strongest impressions I had was that there was one player that stood out consistently.  His strength, poise, occasional flash and explosiveness were gravitational - people knew who “that guy” was.  He positioned well, backed players down at will, played great defense, and made very few mistakes.  He even nutmegged a guy at center court.  I don’t think there would be any doubt, that if teams could be picked by the players - captain-style - that he would have been called right at the top.  Anthony Marshall was masterful.  He had over 30 points in one of the games I watched.  I’m really excited about seeing whether this level of control will carry into, and throughout the season.  Fingers crossed!

Then, add Justin Hawkins - more very solid play.  Justin seems to have hardened and strengthened his frame, and showed no hesitation what-so-ever on his shot, most of which, he made.  Drives to the basket, mid-range jumpers, and three pointers - he looked Good.  I’ve always said that he is a good three-point shooter when he steps into his shot - otherwise, not so much.  Justin seems to have progressed - he was hitting three’s against in-his-face defense, even hitting a few fall-aways.  On one telling play regarding added strength; he was below the basket and suddenly exploded straight up, slamming the rim down with a two-handed dunk.  “Hold on,” I said, hitting ‘rewind’.  “Holy mackerel.  Yep, that was Justin!”

Now, for the new guys:

The first game I watched included Savon Goodman and DaQuan Cook.  If you don’t watch anything else, watch this.  DaQuan Cook is number 6, and Savon Goodman is number 12 on the green team.

How about that, Rebel fans?

DaQuan Cook with Carmelo Anthony

So, DaQuan Cook - The game I saw with him was his first in Las Vegas.  He had just arrived in town a few days before and was just barely getting oriented.  He and Goodman came in off the bench.  The first impression as he stepped on to the court, was that this kid is going to have to spend a good bunch of his time running back and forth between the dorm buffet and the weight room.  He’s listed at something around 6’1” and 165lbs.  I’d call that fairly accurate - maybe even a touch heavy.  It’s hard to tell on video.  I am a little worried he’ll get pushed around, especially on defense.  On offense, he’s fun to watch; simply by the fact that you don’t know which way the ball is headed.  He can thread the needle, and take advantage of opposite direction breakdowns with some nice no-look passing.  Since this was his first game, he may have been a bit shy offensively.  He rarely looked to take it all the way to the hole himself, and didn’t take many jumpers, especially if he was well defended.  This made him a bit predictable at times.  If the opposing team had receivers covered, they could possibly gain a turnover because he might force a bad pass before taking it strong himself.  The jury is out on him, in my book.  He’s young, so even if he needs growth, he has plenty of time to develop into a weapon for UNLV.  Given the supporting cast, it’s very possible this kid could flourish as a true, pass-first point guard. 

For the rest of the new guys, come back Saturday!

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