This season, UNLV basketball may have one of their most talented rosters since the beginning of the Dave Rice era. And despite UNLV leading the Mountain West with a handful of NBA players currently active, the Runnin' Rebels could add at least one more after this season is over. But, who wants to keep watching the NBA for UNLV's players; Rebel fans want to see their players succeed during their time in college. Here's 5 players to keep an eye on during UNLV's 2015-2016 campaign (in no particular order):
1. Ike Nwamu: Nwamu is a transfer from Mercer. He will be in his senior campaign at UNLV this year. He adds excellent athleticism at the guard position. At 6'5" and 210 lbs, Nwamu provides that extra aggression at the guard position that UNLV has been missing since several years back when the athletic combo guard, Derrick Jasper briefly played for the Rebs.
The Rebels will need a man who can drive assertively toward the rim and kick out to shooters. More importantly, Nwamu's ability to lock down in defense will be essential for the team as they maneuver through a tough non-conference schedule.
2. Derrick Jones: Let's be real, one of the main reasons all Rebel fans are stoked for the upcoming season is that they get to enjoy the high flying antics of this particular player. Jones recently showed his flashy above the rim show at the Rebels' downtown Las Vegas pre-season fan fest. As for other parts of his game, time will tell.
Right now, Jones' position as a high energy player could provide a very bright spot for fan interest in Rebel basketball. It's not the Tarkanian days anymore, but UNLV now has an exciting player for their faithful to embrace.
3. Jordan Cornish: Different from the previously mentioned two, Cornish is not a new comer to Rebel basketball. He was a commit from the start and he begins his sophomore campaign with the Rebels this year. Cornish will be the heart and soul of this team, serving as a natural leader during his time on the court.
Every team must have a vocal, aggressive example and UNLV has Cornish. Last season, he averaged just over 5 points a game, but shot an impressive nearly 50% from three-point territory. If Cornish can amp his point average to 10-12 ppg during his opportunities to play, UNLV has a very solid contributor for the near future.
4. Pat McCaw: Another super sophomore this season is McCaw. McCaw continues to be the most promising player for UNLV. What is appealing about McCaw is his unlimited space for improvement and development into one of the best guards in the Mountain West, but that can also be the most frustrating aspect for fans if they hope for results right away.
McCaw is one of the most important assets for this team, because just like a court general should, he sees plays before their made and understands all facets of the game. Improving his 3 point shot would be essential for McCaw to be seen as a legitimate scoring threat when his hands are off the ball or when he dribbles to pull up. I believe, as McCaw goes this season, so too the Rebels.
5. Stephen Zimmerman: No player that I mentioned thus far has more expectations behind him this season than Zimmerman. This, of course, can either play in "Big Zimm's" favor or "Zimm City" could be facing a season of disappointment. However, considering he has already begun to receive Freshmen of the Year nods, most of the nation expects UNLV will only benefit from the Zimmerman talent.
One thing Rebel fans in particular love about him, Zimmerman loves Las Vegas and is proud of his pedigree. Like Anthony Marshall, a Vegas product from years earlier, Reb fans embrace their local heroes. Zimmerman will likely have one of the most memorable freshmen campaigns that UNLV fans have been privileged to witness for a very, long time.