UNLV guard Rashad Vaughn was named the Mountain West Conference’s preseason freshman of the year on Tuesday. But Thursday night at the team’s Scarlet & Gray Showcase, he was only the second best freshman on the floor for the Runnin’ Rebels.
Dwayne Morgan, a 6-foot-7 forward from Baltimore who was an original member of the USA Basketball Under 18 National Team that eventually won the gold medal at the FIBA Americas U18 Championships this summer, scored a team-high 14 points, including 2-of-4 3-pointers, and grabbed three rebounds in 17 minutes but his Scarlet squad lost to the Gray, 46-28, before an estimated crowd of 5,000 at the Thomas & Mack Center.
“It was a great experience,” Morgan said. “I always said I wanted to play in the Thomas & Mack … (and) it’s truly a humbling experience and a motivating experience when you actually step out on that court. It was a great experience.”
(Check out Barry Wong’s VIDEO highlight package from the scrimmage below)
Vaughn, the McDonald’s All-American from Findlay Prep and one of eight newcomers on the Rebels making their Thomas & Mack debut, finished with six points on 3-of-8 shooting and also had three rebounds and two assists in 17 minutes for the winning Gray squad.
Christian Wood, a 6-foot-11 sophomore center, was arguably the best player on the floor, finishing with a scrimmage-high 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting, grabbing seven rebounds and blocking two shots in 16 minutes for the Gray team. Another sophomore, Kendall Smith, had the best scrimmage of any guard, scoring eight points to go along with five rebounds, four assists and no turnovers.
The other top freshman recruit, 6-foot-9 Goodluck Okonoboh, also had a solid debut finishing with six points and six rebounds.
Morgan didn’t play in the FIBA Americas U18 Championship Tournament, having to drop out a few days before the start because of an illness in his family and being replaced by Bishop Gorman’s Chase Jeter on the roster. But he said taking part in the tryouts and workouts in Colorado Springs helped him improve his game.
“That really got me ready,” Morgan said. “At the USA Camp, we had two three-hour practices each day, and you were playing against some of the top players going to some of the top schools in the country. You were also playing at high elevation so it got me mentally ready and mentally focused.”
When a reporter said he already looked in mid-season form, Morgan scoffed it off.
“Right now I’m not even worried about that,” he said. “My goal is to get better every day. Coming into games I’m not worried about putting up this many points. I’m just going out and trying to be the best player my coach wants me to be, trying to rebound, trying to do all the intangibles that my teams needs me to do.”
UNLV returns to the Thomas & Mack on Nov. 5 when it plays Florida National in an exhibition game at 7 p.m.