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Return to the 2005-06 Top 144 Preview List


#72 UNLV Rebels

Mountain West


2004-05: 17-14, 7-7, 4th

2004-05 postseason: NIT

By Joel Welser

The Rebels lose four players who started at least 18 games last year from a team that was disappointing much of the campaign. UNLV did have a nice late season surge, winning six of their last seven regular season games to earn them a trip to the NIT. For 2005-2006, Lon Kruger will have to quickly find consistency from a group of talented newcomers or this year could end up to be much worse than last.

Who’s Out: Odartey Blankson led the team with 17.5 points and 8.1 rebounds. Jerel Blassingame was dish leader with 5.5 assists and tacked on 8.9 points per contest. Romel Beck was the Rebel’s best long range threat and averaged 13.6 points per game. Andy Hannan started 20 games on the wing and seldom used guards Colin Darfour and John Winston have exhausted their eligibility and transferred, respectively. It will be a new look with all the departures, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a team that underachieved.

Who’s In: Point guard Jovan Adams will battle returnee Ricky Morgan for minutes at the point. Adams averaged 28.0 points, 12.0 assists and 8.0 steals per game last year at Gulf Shores Academy in Houston, Texas. Junior college transfers Jason Petrimoulx and Wendell White will add some much needed depth on the wings. Petrmioulx’s shooting from behind the arc will get him some spot minutes and White’s toughness and ability to finish could earn him a starting job. Small forward Joe Darger will most likely find himself pretty far down the bench as a freshman, but he is a fine shooter and can offer more on the defensive end than the other newcomers on the wing. Gaston Essenque, a native of Cameroon, provides UNLV with a much needed strong power forward who can run the floor. Essenque averaged 14.1 points and 9.1 rebounds last year at Weatherford (TX) College. Jerome Johnson is another solid option in the post, but the freshman will need a year or two to develop. Redshirt Rene Rougeau and walkon Scott Hoffman will provide some emergency depth to the backcourt.

Who to Watch: Louis Amundson started 30 games last year, averaging 7.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. The 6-9 senior still has plenty of room to improve and his starting job isn’t even secure with Joel Anthony coming on strong late last year. Amundson isn’t a great post scorer and could stand to develop some moves, but his experience should earn him the starting nod. I often say I could shoot better free throws than that guy, but in this case there is no doubt. Amundson shot a dismal 28.8% from the charity stripe last year. Amundson tends to fade late in the year, but with more options off the bench, he shouldn’t have to see as many minutes.

Projected Conference Rank: They say the point guard and center are the two most important positions in the college game. At the point, Ricky Morgan has the experience and Jovan Adams oozes potential. The center spot is up for grabs, but there are two decent options in Louis Amundson and Joel Anthony. Michael Umeh is the returning leading scorer and has the potential to carry much of the scoring load. In a conference that is down, it is really anybody’s title. UNLV has the potential to be very dangerous after some early season troubles due to all the newcomers. A 2nd place finish in the MWC might not be good enough for an NCAA bid this year, but another trip to the NIT is a step in the right direction for the Rebels and Lon Kruger.

Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT

Projected Starting Five:

Ricky Morgan, Senior, Guard, 4.1 points per game

Michael Umeh, Junior, Guard, 9.7 points per game

Wendell White, Junior, Guard, DNP last season

Gaston Essengue, Junior, Forward, DNP last season

Louis Amundson, Senior, Forward, 7.8 points per game


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