UNLV’s basketball team flew to Canada on Thursday where it will begin a four-game exhibition tour in Ottawa on Saturday afternoon against Carleton University.
The Runnin’ Rebels also are scheduled to play the University of Ottawa on Sunday, either Laval University or the University of Quebec on Monday and finish up with McGill University on Tuesday.
The trip gives Dave Rice’s squad, which adds eight newcomers to the roster, a head start on the 2012-13 season although three of the top additions – Findlay Prep product Anthony Bennett, Pitt transfer Khem Birch and UConn transfer Roscoe Smith – weren’t cleared to play or practice.
Still, Rice believes the trip will be beneficial because of the 10 days of extra practice it brought the rest of his team.
“Certainly being able to practice 10 days and play four games gives us a head start on the season,” Rice said. “With as many new guys that we have and with them trying to help learn our system, it is huge.”
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Newcomers Bryce Dejean-Jones, a talented USC transfer who practiced with the Rebels last season, and true freshmen Daquan Cook, Katin Reinhardt, Demetris Morant and Savon Goodman will join returnees Mike Moser, Anthony Marshall, Justin Hawkins, Carlos Lopez and Quintrell Thomas on the floor in Canada.
Strong emphasis during the practices has been placed on playing at a very quick tempo – these are the Runnin’ Rebels after all — and also passing the ball. Several practice drills have focused on the Rebels getting off a good shot within nine seconds.
“We just want to make sure that we understand pace and understand the importance of playing hard,” Rice said. “And of course staying together, trying to be the same team that was second in the country in assists last year.”
Rice said the Rebels don’t know a whole lot about the four teams that they’ll be playing but was not concerned about it.
“(We) know they shoot the ball well, they’re big, strong guys,” Rice said. “It’s always more about us than opponent but that’s particularly the case for us in Canada. … It’s more about playing hard, staying together, doing the things important for us moving forward. … It’s just a step in the process of trying to get better and ready for what’s really important and that’s the season.”