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UNLV Rebels Practice

Wade Vandervort

UNLV Rebels head coach Kevin Kruger leads practice at Mendenhall Center Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022.

UNLV had its first official summer practice on Monday, tipping off an eight-week window in which college coaches get to work with their players on the court and in the weight room as they prepare for the upcoming 2023-24 season.

For freshmen and incoming transfers, it’s a golden opportunity to acclimate to new surroundings, new teammates and a new program. For the coaching staff, it’s a chance to begin teaching the core concepts of the playbook.

While the start of the season is still five months away, the process of shaping the team begins now.

Some key storylines to watch as practice gets underway:

Roll call

UNLV is bringing in eight newcomers this offseason, and the team had near-perfect attendance at the first workout on Monday.

The notable exception was freshman D.J. Thomas, the 4-star point guard from Liberty who committed to the program two weeks ago. Thomas reclassified Monday to the Class of 2023 and will join the team for the upcoming season, but he’s not going to be participating in summer workouts.

The rest of the roster is in town and will be present at the first team meeting. Senior big man Isaiah Cottrell won’t be able to participate due to the foot injury that ended his 2022-23 campaign, but everyone else is good to go.

This is primed to be a big season for UNLV, and according to coach Kevin Kruger, the players are just as enthusiastic as the fans about getting started.

“They’re excited,” Kruger said. “Most of the guys either got here last week or they’ve been here longer, and I know they’ve been working.”

Veteran presence

Kruger scored big in the portal this offseason, landing a trio of senior transfers who are expected to nail down starting roles: guard Keylan Boone (Pacific) and forwards Jalen Hill (Oklahoma) and Kalib Boone (Oklahoma State).

In addition to their contributions on the court, Kruger also wants those veterans to waste no time assuming leadership positions.

Hill and the Boone brothers can begin that process during summer workouts.

“You talk about Jalen Hill being older, the Boone twins being older with more experience,” Kruger said. “This is a group that will take ownership of things, and that starts here in these practices. I think the more we put on their plate, the more we’ll see them step into those leadership roles.”

UNLV is a veteran laden team, with a pair of fifth-year seniors, Luis Rodriguez and Justin Webster, returning from last year’s squad. By adding Hill and the Boones to the mix, Kruger is hopeful they’ll set a standard for the rest of the team to follow over the next two months.

Fast start

UNLV is not going to ease into its summer sessions.

Last year, the team had the benefit of the eight-week workout window, plus an additional 10 practices in August in preparation for an exhibition trip to Canada. With no such trip this year, those 10 practices have evaporated. That means once the summer sessions conclude, UNLV is done until preseason practice officially begins in October.

Kruger is planning to get the most out of the next eight weeks.

“Last year we spent more of the eight weeks trying to build a foundation, and then we had the practices for Canada,” Kruger said. “I think this year we’re trying to simulate games as much as possible. Let them play, put them in 5-on-5 situations and do more of that, as opposed to building up to the trip. We want to make sure we hit the ground running.”

Per NCAA rules, teams are allowed to practice eight hours per week during the summer window, with four hours allotted for on-court activities and four hours for strength and conditioning work.


Just as Kruger wants the players to hit the ground running, the coaching staff should be able to do the same.

UNLV had to replace all three assistant coaches in the 2022 offseason, which stunted the team’s continuity and necessitated a get-to-know-each-other process throughout the summer. That’s not the case this time around. Barret Peery, John Cooper and Jamal Washington all return for their second year under Kruger. 

Kruger believes the players will benefit from keeping the staff intact, and that the summer practices will be better for it. 

“It’s huge. Last year I didn’t really understand the importance of continuity. I was the only guy [the players] looked at and had any familiarity with. This year, every player or recruit will have a relationship with at least one of the coaches before we even get started. I think that familiarity and those relationships are going to pay huge dividends.”

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at

Article written by #LasVegasSun