Inside the Runnin’ Rebels’ home

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Jude P. Roque

LAS VEGAS, Nevada: One of the most heralded men’s collegiate basketball teams in the United States is the University of Nevada – Las Vegas (UNLV) Runnin’ Rebels varsity, an NCAA Division 1 school. The Rebels welcomed back former assistant coach and long-time New Mexico State U head coach Marvin Menzies last year, who owns a career record of 198-111 as a D1 head coach over nine seasons, and is the third-winningest coach in NMSU history.

Members of the San Beda Red Lions coaching staff had the rare opportunity of meeting Menzies last week at the UNLV’s Mendenhall Center, a state-of-the-art basketball training facility where the Runnin’ Rebels hold their practices. The meeting was set up by Impact Basketball Camp’s Joe Abunassar, who trains the Red Lions in skills and conditioning every summer since 2010. San Beda chief bench tactician Boyet Fernandez, assistants Cholo Martin and Joph Cleopas, Las Vegas resident George Afable and this writer could not help but be fascinated by the marvelous Mendenhall Center building that features two standard basketball courts, locker rooms for players and coaches, film room, academic area, strength and conditioning area with a pool, equipment area, and even a laundry area with enormous washing and drying machines.

Menzies himself led the tour of the facility before endorsing the group to his staff. The San Beda group was welcomed into the Rebels’ viewing room that had reclining seats for the whole team facing a huge white screen. It’s where the team watches game tapes for scouting and game preparations. Among Menzies’ staff in the meeting were deputies Rob Jeter and Eric Brown. Jeter himself was a former D1 head coach at Milwaukee, while Brown was a long-time assistant coach at Long Beach State. Special assistant to the head coach Keith Brown spent the most time with the group, sharing his knowledge of the game. The former mentor of the Cal State Bakersfield squad, Brown is mostly credited for the development of Pascal Siakam, the Toronto Raptors’ 27th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Also present were Director of Basketball Operations Preston Laird and video coordinator Tim Daniels. Daniels showed the Red Lions’ coaches how their $ 30,000-worth video equipment works, as well as the Rebels’ scouting reports. The $ 11-million Mendenhall Center is situated right next to the UNLV’s Thomas and Mack Center, where most of the Rebels’ games are held.

The Red Lions had their training last week at Abunassar’s Impact gym along with some top NBA Draft prospects. Among the draftees currently polishing their skills at Impact are Florida State’s Jonathan Isaac, who is ranked sixth overall in the 2017 NBA Mock Draft by the website nbadraft.net. Isaac, a 6’10” versatile forward, was clearly the most impressive in the group. Kobe Paras’ best friend at Creighton Justin Patton is also trying to chisel his craft at Impact. Patton, a seven-foot center with amazing skills, is only 19 years old and “one and done” in collegiate basketball, as he is expected to be picked between 10th and 15th in the first round. Incidentally, Paras recently asked to be released from Creighton and is set to transfer to another NCAA team. Patton said he knows where Kobe will play next but refused to reveal the school. The other ranked trainees at Impact are Oklahoma State’s Jawun Evans (37th) and Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame(44th).


The NBA Draft prospects played the National University Bulldogs in a friendly match two weeks ago also at Impact and won by over 40 markers. But the same gang struggled against the 20-time NCAA champions Red Lions in another tune-up game last week that the Americans won, 93-85. University of Miami’s 6’6” guard Davon Reed, who averaged 14.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists for the Hurricanes last season, led the NBA hopefuls with 18 points, while UNLV’s Uche Ofoegbu and Shorter College’s Phil Taylor added 12 markers each. Maryland star Melo Trimble only had three. For the Lions, last year’s NCAA finals MVP Arnaud Noah topscored with 16 points, followed by fellow sophomore Benedict Adamos with 14 and skipper Joe Presbitero with ten.

The Bedans start their second week of training today at the Asics Sports Facility in Irvine under Jordan Lawley.

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