LARAMIE, Wyo. – When it comes to a scouting report for the opposing team, UNLV coach Dave Rice probably won’t get a more comprehensive one than he’ll have for today’s Mountain West game with Wyoming.
That’s because Runnin’ Rebel assistant Heath Schroyer coached the Cowboys (17-5, 3-3) the last four seasons and recruited all but one of the team’s top eight scorers, reserve swingman Larry Nance Jr.
So if the 11th-ranked Rebels (21-3, 5-1) fail to pick up a victory this afternoon at icy Arena-Auditorium (1 p.m., The Mtn.), they know who to blame.
“I told Coach Schroyer he did too good a job of recruiting,” was Rice’s favorite line this week.
Schroyer, who was fired last Feb. 7 during his fourth season with the Cowboys, denied that he has had this game circled on his schedule.
“No, not at all,” he said. “It’s really about UNLV vs. Wyoming. We’re in the middle of a conference championship run, and we need to go up there and try and get a win.”
Schroyer might possibility still be on the opposite bench today if not for a key injury to his franchise player, 6-foot-8 swingman Afam Muojeke, two years ago. Muojeke, the 2009 Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year who appeared destined to be a high NBA draft pick, suffered a ruptured patellar tendon in his left knee in a Jan. 20, 2010 game at BYU that has required three separate surgeries over two years to repair. He was averaging 16.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.6 steals his sophomore year before the injury.
“I’ve wondered that quite a few times, yes,” Schroyer said when asked if he ever wondered how different things would be now if Moujeke hadn’t been injured.
Wyoming’s two top players from a year ago – guard Desmar Jackson (Southern Illinois) and forward Amath M’Baye (Oklahoma) – transferred after Schroyer’s departure. Toss in those two with the current Cowboys’ lineup and it’s fair to say Wyoming, which is currently on the NCAA Tournament bubble, would be as talented as any team in the Mountain West.
“We thought this year and next year we’d be able to make our run,” Schroyer said. “There’s no question in my mind that (Moujeke) was an NBA player. It was real unfortunate when he went down. It took the program a year or so to really recuperate from that. When you have a player like that … at Wyoming in particular … you try and build a lot of things around him. It was a very unfortunate incident for him and the program.”
Schroyer said he holds no ill feelings toward Wyoming.
“I’m happy for those kids and (new coach Larry Shyatt) is doing a really good job with them,” Schroyer said. “I love those guys. I think they’re playing well. It will be fun to go back and see them again.”
Because of the blizzard that dumped over a foot of snow in Colorado and parts of Wyoming on Friday, the Rebels experienced some travel delays and didn’t check into their hotel rooms until 12:30 this morning. However, that was a smooth trip compared to the one Mountain West co-leader San Diego State experienced two weeks ago which took over 17 hours and an unexpected overnight stay in Cedar City, Utah that ended with a 52-42 Aztecs’ victory.
Before departing Las Vegas, Rice refused any potential travel issues as an excuse for today’s performance.
“As long as we can make it there in time for the game, we’ll be ready to play,” he said.