UNLV Basketball Roster 2020-2021
Photo Credit: Terrance Quaites - Franchise Sports Media

The New UNLV Basketball Roster – 2020-2021



Last week, the world of sports as we know it came to a screeching halt due to the pandemic known as the Coronavirus.


The NBA was the first to suspend play after a very public and terrifying scene where a team doctor sprinted onto the basketball court just before tipoff of the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder to stop the game from being played. Players were quickly ushered off the floor, and the now-infamous announcement that Rudy Gobert had tested positive for Covid-19 hit the headlines soon after. 

The rest is history. The NBA, NHL, and MLB (Along with every other major sports league) decided to forestall any further competition in favor of waiting to see how this unprecedented time would pan out. While the professionals were content to sit and wait, the NCAA took on a much bolder stance: They’d be canceling all remaining winter sporting events, as well as spring sports.


That meant the beloved NCAA Basketball Tournament for both men and women would not be taking place this year. 


Blessedly, this is not yet another article about Coronavirus. Instead, since college basketball was so shockingly and abruptly cut short, this is about what’s next for UNLV men’s basketball. The Rebels didn’t make the tournament, but they did enjoy a 2019-20 campaign that saw the team improve dramatically throughout the season.

By the time MWC play wrapped up, UNLV was tied for 2nd place in the standings, and they were thought to possibly be a bid stealer who could win the conference tournament crown. That didn’t happen, of course, but the fact that the Rebels were even in the conversation to accomplish such a feat means that most fans are extremely hopeful as to how subsequent seasons under head coach TJ Otzelberger may look. 

Otzelberger loaded up on commitments for the 2020 class. All in all, he was able to get a pledge from 6 high school players, and 2 JUCO prospects. If that wasn’t enough, he also has David Jenkins Jr. and Moses Wood, who sat out due to transfer rules themselves. UNLV only had three scholarship seniors on their roster, so the math wasn’t quite adding up as to who will be staying and who will be going.  


The transfer portal has become an integral part of every off-season in college basketball. Really, it’s become the NCAA’s version of free agency.


Most teams are looking to add to their team by adding a grad transfer or an underclassman who has high hopes for a waiver, but right now, UNLV is using it to get down to the scholarship max of 13 players. 

Surprising some, the first to depart via the portal was Australian guard, Jonah Antonio. Recruited as a three and D sniper upon signing with the Rebels, he never really lived up to that billing on the court. Antonio only shot 31.5% on his 3 point attempts, and most of his 168 tries from long-range seemed ill-advised or rushed.

Underachieving as a shooter is forgivable if you’re contributing in other facets of the game, but the defense he displayed was sorely lacking. So much so, that when UNLV played teams with superior athletes (and even against teams that weren’t very athletic at all), Antonio often found himself sitting next to a member of the staff watching the game unfold from the bench. It’s for those reasons that Otzelberger’s first signee at UNLV became the first to leave the program. 

The next to leave was less of a surprise. Jay Green was a holdover from former head coach Marvin Menzies’ teams, and playing time had been tough to come by for the redshirt sophomore guard while he was at UNLV. To start 2019-20, that was still the case for Green, but a midseason shakeup opened up an opportunity for him to show Rebel fans what he was made of. Perhaps the single performance that stands out to most is when he was tasked with guarding San Diego State’s star guard Malachi Flynn in UNLV’s biggest upset in years at Viejas Arena.

The Aztecs were storming back from a double-digit deficit, and it was Green who came up with crucial stops on Flynn in the final minutes to help seal the victory. Otzelberger is a big fan of analytics, so that means he desires shooters on his roster. Green is high IQ, high energy, but he isn’t the type of guard that UNLV will be utilizing moving forward. 


The big question of the off-season was the future of star guard, Amauri Hardy.


It was long rumored that he was looking to transfer out of the program as a grad transfer, and yesterday that became a reality. Hardy averaged 35 minutes and almost 13 shots per game, but most likely would have seen a diminished role next season. Bryce Hamilton became the go-to player in TJ Otzelberger’s offense came MWC play as he averaged 20 ppg against conference opponents. With the emergence of Hamilton, coupled with David Jenkins Jr becoming eligible, Hardy would have been a definitive 3rd option. That being said, his 14.5 points per game and 3.3 assists per game will be missed. 

In other news for the day, it was announced that Cheickna Dembele had been deemed unable to continue his basketball career due to injury. Dembele was ranked as a 3-star out of high school and was thought by the previous staff to have pro potential. He never developed into that, but he provided rim protection and rebounding when he did sparsely see the floor. From what I understand, he will stay at UNLV, earn his degree, and then transition into a role as a grad assistant for the staff. 

Thus far, those are the only players to vacate scholarships. For those that are keeping count, one more opening needs to transpire for the Rebels to get to the magic number 13. Right now, it’s conjecture, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Donnie Tillman were the next Rebel to go. The word is that he would like to turn pro and that he feels the NBA is a viable option. Otzelberger will have a very young and talented nucleus for next season.


When you couple that with seasoned veterans Jenkins, Hamilton, and Coleman, you’re looking at a team that will be expected to be a contender within the MWC and make an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. 

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-Jeff Waddilove – Franchise Sports Media