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UNLV rotation slimmed down by transfer and injuries

Kendall Smith is gone for good, and UNLV may be out two players for Friday night.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

UNLV takes on St. Katherine Friday, but the Runnin’ Rebels could be down to seven healthy scholarship players.

Sophomore guard Kendall Smith has decided he will transfer after the semester and is no longer a member of the team. He asked for and was granted his release yesterday.

On the injury front, both starting wings – Rashad Vaughn and Jelan Kendrick – got hurt Wednesday night. Vaughn went down with a back injury, while Kendrick suffered a groin injury.

Dave Rice on his two injured players:

“Rashad has lower back spasms. (He) had to be helped onto the plane, helped on to the bus. But he loosened up some today. He’s day to day, and doubtful for tomorrow’s game.”

“Jelan Kendrick hurt his hand and his back in the Albany game. Then he actually hurt his left groin yesterday, which is most significant of the injuries.  That prevented him from having any flexibility or movement in the second half (at Arizona State). He’s day to day as well, and probably doubtful for tomorrow.”

That leaves Rice in an undesirable situation of having an extremely short bench for a game on Friday. If neither of the injured wings play, the starting lineup could be Cody Doolin, Pat McCaw, Jordan Cornish, Chris Wood and Goodluck Okonoboh. The bench would be composed of Dantley Walker in the back court and Dwayne Morgan up front.

That’s it for scholarship players; there are two walk-ons – Charles Rushman and Barry Cheaney. So Rice only has nine eligible bodies, assuming Vaughn and Kendrick are out. The two wings could play pending medical evaluations.

UNLV shouldn’t be in any danger against St. Katherine regardless of depth, but this highlights the thin ice UNLV is on. Injuries and foul trouble can leave UNLV with few options for lineups.

Rice didn’t rule out playing Morgan in the back court, but said he wants to keep Morgan in the frontcourt as much as possible.

At the very least, Dantley Walker should be unleashed Friday night. Walker has a lot of potential as a shooter; he impressed with a quick and accurate release in the scrimmages. But he has played in just eight minutes this season and is 0 of 2 from the field.

The good news for UNLV is that following Friday's game the Rebels don't play until Saturday, December 13 at South Dakota.