Photo Credit: Athletic

New FSM Preview – 2022-23 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels



The Runnin’ Rebels are entering their second year under head coach Kevin Kruger, and will begin this season with their first four games at home, including a date with No. 24 Dayton on Tuesday, Nov. 15.


The Runnin’ Rebels last season finished in fifth place in a competitive Mountain West Conference, where the four teams ahead of them all qualified for the NCAA Tournament. They’re coming off a season where they went 18-14, their most wins in four years.

This year, they only have six returning players: senior guard Justin Webster, senior forward Victor Iwuakor, senior center David Muoka, sophomore guard Keshon Gilbert, fifth-year guard Jordan McCabe, and walk-on senior guard Cameron Burist.


Of the nine new players on the 15-man roster, six of them are transfers from other Division-I schools. The newcomers include: 


UNLV Runnin' Rebels
Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

6-10 redshirt sophomore forward Isaiah Cottrell originally from Las Vegas and transferred to UNLV from West Virginia

6-7 freshman guard Keyshawn Hall from Cleveland, Ohio.

6-3 fifth-year guard EJ Harkless, who transferred from Oklahoma.

5-11 sophomore guard Jackie Johnson III, who transferred from Duquesne

6-10 junior forward Karl Jones, who transferred from LA Southwest College.

6-6 sophomore guard Shane Nowell, who transferred from Arizona

6-4 fifth-year guard Elijah Parquet, who transferred from Colorado

6-6 senior guard Luis Rodriguez, who transferred from Ole Miss.

6-1 junior guard Nick Walters, who transferred from the College of Southern Nevada.

McCabe could sense a good type of tension early on, feeling that the first few months of the team being together had a competitive vibe. However, that subsided, and the team has grown together as a unit since then.

You find that early on guys don’t know each other that well,” McCabe said. “They’re kind of feeling each other out and they’re going at each other. It’s uncomfortable sometimes you know, everybody wants minutes. And then after that, you get out of the other side of that competition.

McCabe believes that the Runnin’ Rebels have reached a chemistry level beyond minutes or personal success. As a result, they’re heading into the upcoming season with winning games on all of their minds.

Head coach Kevin Kruger isn’t worried much about the chemistry at all. Even though there are nine new players on his team, he believes the experience the transfers bring from their previous schools has helped accelerate the process of getting everyone on the same page.

We have an older group,” Kruger said. “So they understand that it’s about results. It’s not just about going out there and running around and playing, it’s about getting out there and getting results and getting wins.”

Kruger said that mindset has helped increase the competition level in practice.


UNLV’s first impressions


UNLV vs Wyoming
Photo Credit: Trisha LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

UNLV got a taste of game action earlier in August during three exhibition games they played in Canada. The Runnin’ Rebels won two of their three games up there, but Kruger wasn’t necessarily focused on the wins and losses.

Canada was more about us just getting opportunities and repetitions as a group. We got to learn a lot about each other,” Kruger said. “Being put in situations that maybe we’re not used to as players.”

The biggest takeaway for Kruger was seeing the team deal with adversity. Specifically, how the Runnin’ Rebels reacted after a loss. Kruger said he was impressed with how his group responded after losing the opening game of their Canadian Tour.


A quick look at their first opponent of the season


Southern recorded an overall record of 17-14 last season and finished third in the Southwestern Athletic Conference with a 12-6 league mark. The Jaguars were picked to finish third in the league standings this season. SU’s Tyrone Lyons was named to the Preseason All-SWAC First Team, while teammate Bryson Etienne earned second-team honors. Lyons is a 6-7 redshirt senior guard, and he led the team in scoring last year at 13.7 points per game, along with 5.0 rebounds. He shot 50.7% from the field and 42.2% on 3-pointers. Etienne is a 6-3 fifth-year guard who transferred to SU from Texas Southern, where he averaged 8.8 PPG and 2.8 RPG. Southern’s 16-man roster features 12 upperclassmen and no freshmen.


Looking ahead, expectations can’t be tempered for a team that has found success historically


www.FranchiseSportsMedia.com - UNLV vs UCSD
Photo Credit: TQ for Franchise Sports Media

The Runnin’ Rebels are coming off one of their better seasons in recent years but had a heartbreaking 59-56 loss in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Tournament against Wyoming last season. McCabe doesn’t feel any added pressure to do better than last year; he said it’s more of an expectation. 

18 wins last year is good, but 20 wins is your benchmark,” McCabe said. “That’s always been the benchmark in college basketball for a good season. We were shy of that. So we need to find a way to get to that goal and then give ourselves a real chance at making the tournament.”

Kruger couldn’t agree more, saying there isn’t any added pressure. Instead, the second-year head coach and former Runnin’ Rebel point guard has an understanding of where the program should be.

However, the Runnin’ Rebels haven’t made the NCAA Tournament in nearly ten years. So there has to be a feeling of some sort to start producing, especially after a very successful season by the Lady Rebels. But Kruger knows it’d be great to get back there. He’s just more worried about getting off to a good start of the season.


The UNLV men’s basketball team will open the 2022-23 season on Monday, November 7 at 7:15 p.m. at the Thomas & Mack Center vs. Southern.

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-Jake Ideguchi-Furukawa – Franchise Sports Media

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