Menzies has tough acts to follow with the Rebels | NevadaAppeal.com

Menzies has tough acts to follow with the Rebels

Darrell Moody
dmoody@nevadaappeal.com
Jalen Poyser. Men's basketball in a game against Arizona State University ASU at the Thomas & Mack Center on December 16, 2015. (R. Marsh Starks / UNLV Photo Services)
UNLV |

Marvin Menzies may have the toughest job in basketball.

The 54-year-old Menzies, who coached at New Mexico State for nine years, was named the 13th head coach in UNLV history of the Rebels’ historic basketball program in late April.

Menzies has to follow two pretty successful coaches — Lon Kruger and the late Jerry Tarkanian. Kruger compiled a 161-71 record in seven seasons before leaving for Oklahoma, including four NCAA appearances. Tarknanian made the NCAAs 12 times in 19 years. The Rebels won the national championship in 1990.

It’s similar to coaches who had to follow in John Wooden’s footsteps at UCLA. Nobody will and can measure up, and that’s what the fan base at UNLV has to realize. The Rebels may, and probably will, have success under Menzies. It will take time, however.

“I was the coach that wanted this job the most,” Menzies was quoted in a school press release. “I also know that if you gave me a choice of any university in the United States to coach, my first choice would have been UNLV. I’m excited to be here.

“So far so good. Kids are buying in.”

Menzies is asking for patience, but that isn’t a trait many people, especially fans, have. They want success now. They don’t want to wait.

A rough schedule awaits the Rebels. TCU comes to town on Nov. 25, the Rebels are away on Dec. 3, Duke visits on Dec. 10, UNLV visits Oregon on Dec. 17 and Kansas is in town on Dec. 22. The schedule also includes MW powerhouse San Diego State (twice).

The Rebels, who are coming off back-to-back 18-win seasons, were picked to finish eighth, and that’s understandable given the fact Menzies got a late recruiting start and he only has three players — 6-8 forward Dwayne Morgan (5.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg), 6-7 senior forward Tyrell Green (1.8, 1.1) and 6-4 guard Jalen Poyser (5.4, 2.1) — returning this season.

Menzies has 12 new players in the program, including six freshmen. Two of his new players are transfers — 6-7 Christian Jones is a graduate transfer from St. John’s and 6-4 senior guard Uche Ofoegbu is a graduate transfer from University of San Francisco.

Obviously the transfers will be a step ahead of the other newcomers.

“Christian brings us immediate experience and leadership,” Menzies said. “Uche is a very efficient offensive player. His experience fills a need, and will help us be competitive early.”

The top freshmen appear to be 6-8 wing player Troy Baxter Jr. a four-star ESPN and Rivals.com recruit from Florida, and Ben Coupet Jr. a 6-7 forward, a three-star recruit.

Sophomore transfer Kris Clyburn averaged 14.3 at Ranger College.

A lot of new faces to mesh and establish chemistry at both ends of the floor.

“Things are coming along,” Poyser said at the recent Media Day in Las Vegas. “It is difficult when you have 10 new guys on the roster. The most important thing is it’s not about one person, it’s about team, team, team.

“We are trying to get better every day; every practice.”

According to Ofoegbu, defense will be critical. The Rebels don’t have any big scorers returning, and may take longer to jell offensively than on defense.

Ofoegbu averaged around 8 a game for the Dons last year which makes him one of the top scorers.

“It’s important to score points, but you win championships because of defense,” Ofiegbu said. “We can’t forget that.”