"I don't need to play a guy a few minutes here or there to determine his value to the future of what we're doing. I know who I want to roll with." That was a direct quote from Marvin Menzies on February 26th, a day after UNR crushed the Rebels at the T&M and completed a season sweep of UNLV. There was very little subtlety involved with that statement. It's blatantly obvious that Menzies is less than happy with the makeup of his first ever UNLV team as head coach in Las Vegas. We all knew by the time coach Menzies was hired that he was going to have to scramble in a major way to put together a team. He and his staff were barely together a few weeks by the time most of the roster was compiled. That's not near enough time to go out and grab difference makers, let alone evaluate what you may or may not have moving forward in trying to build a future.
Rumor had it at the start of the season that most of the players that were brought in were basically going to be partaking in a season long open tryout. Looking at most of the roster, it was plain to see that the vast majority of the kids brought in wouldn't be playing for UNLV under normal circumstances. Some players like Jovan Mooring, Zion Morgan, Cheick Dembele and Kris Clyburn have shown that they can contribute at this level in some capacity. Others like Djordjije Sljavancanin and Ben Coupet never really took off their warm ups during the season. If you peruse Menzies quote from the top of the article again, it's not difficult to ascertain who he is referring to. I think it's safe to say that those two won't be returning for the 2017-18 campaign.
Still, other situations aren't so cut and dry. Jalen Poyser was a highly touted 4 star recruit that was brought in by the previous hot shot recruiting staff. Surely, he will be a key cog in the UNLV rebuilding effort moving forward, right? His production and minutes from the out of conference slate and the conference portion of the season says otherwise. Over the first 13 games of the season Poyser put up respectable numbers, especially considering the Rebels were playing teams like Kansas, Duke and Oregon. He averaged 14.2 points per contest, while shooting 40% from the floor and 33% from beyond the arc. He also played 31 minutes per game. At that time he was probably UNLV's best player. During Mountain West play though, his numbers and production took a drastic hit. Over the final 17 games in which he played, Poyser only put up 7.8 points per game, shooting 30% from the field and a dismal 16% from three. There were nine games where he didn't even hit a three point basket at all. Because of that drop, his minutes plummeted to 23 per game. Putting it into further perspective, after the first Air Force game, his minutes fell even further in favor of Zion Morgan. Over the final 10 games of the season, Poyser only played 19 minutes a game. There's been a lot of talk that he'll be transferring out and I can confirm through multiple sources that will more than likely be the case. I'd even go so far as to call it a 90% done deal.
Beyond Jalen Poyser, you have another highly touted recruit, this time brought in by Menzies and his staff that's been the talk of transfer rumors. Troy Baxter Jr was a consensus top 100 player out of high school, and we've seen flashes of that throughout the season. Despite his uncanny athleticism and solid midrange game, Baxter hasn't played much if at all. He has received multiple DNP's in the stat column and the given reason by the staff is a nagging injury. While I'm sure that's the case, I've also been hearing that Baxter has had a rather difficult time catching on with the offensive and defensive concepts that have been implemented. That being the case, it's easy in this age of instantaneous gratification (Particularly in the transfer happy world of D1 college basketball) for a kid to grow frustrated and to look for greener pastures. While I hope that Baxter stays the course here at UNLV, I'm hearing he's around 50-50 in terms of leaving.
Right now UNLV has three seniors on the roster. Their scholarships will open up. Also keep in mind that Jordan Johnson is sitting out due to transfer rules. He averaged 8.1 assists per game at UWM under Rob Jeter and he pretty much beat Wisconsin by himself in Madison. The staff is currently pursuing Dwayne Morgan a medical redshirt, so he will be returning as well. After that, i think it's open season except for Jovan Mooring and Dembele. Any other current Rebel could leave and I wouldn't be surprised (Although I do expect Clyburn and Z. Morgan to be around).
At the end of the day, Marvin Menzies has to bring in the best players he can in order to right this ship. This season has been the worst the program has ever seen. I do think that Menzies deserves a pass, because he inherited a no-win situation. The 11-20 record is a testament to that. However, the mounting pressure to win is coming. If next year's team isn't drastically better than this one, that seat is going to start to heat up. It's not fair necessarily, but it's the reality of the situation here at UNLV. There's unrealistic expectations in place in Las Vegas to win now and to win big. If coach Menzies has to run some of this team off to do so, well than so be it.