Friday, July 21, 2023 | 2 a.m.
The 2023-24 UNLV basketball team is nearly complete.
With two weeks remaining in the summer practice window, all 13 players are on campus, according to coach Kevin Kruger, and 10 of those are participating in summer workouts.
UNLV added its 13th player last week when 6-foot-9 forward Jacob Bannarbie — an Anchorage, Alaska, native who played at Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix — signed with the program.
That brings the team to the scholarship limit for the upcoming season and finalizes the
roster-construction aspect of the offseason. Now it’s all about getting everyone on the court and ramping up for opening night.
With Bannarbie in the fold, Kruger said the coaching staff is free to turn its full attention to practice as the team enters the last two weeks of the summer window.
“Having our final roster, it’s good,” Kruger said. “We can take a breath in that part of our meetings now and really focus on the on-the-court activities.”
The NCAA allows teams to practice for eight weeks in the summer, evenly split between on-court team workouts and strength and conditioning sessions. There is then a mandated break before full practices can commence 42 days before the first game of the season.
Incoming freshmen D.J. Thomas and Bannarbie signed too late to enroll in summer classes, which makes themineligible to join the summer workouts. The only other inactive player is junior big man Isaiah Cottrell, who is still rehabilitating a broken foot that kept him sidelined for almost the entire 2022-23 season.
Thomas is the most prominent absence, as the 4-star prospect is expected to play a pivotal role right away as the team’s starting point guard. He was recruited as a member of the Class of 2024, but reclassified to 2023 so he could play for UNLV this year.
Kruger believes Thomas will be a fast study and catch up quickly in the fall once he gets on the floor.
“Of course, you’d love to have everybody throughout the summer,” Kruger said. “But with the reclassification, I don’t think it’s more harmful than it is good. As soon as classes start, we’ll have four-ish weeks of official practice, so we’ll be able to go over a lot of things then.”
Kruger also expects Cottrell to be ready to take the court when official practice begins in late September.
As for the players participating now, Kruger is most pleased by the no-nonsense attitude of his veterans.
UNLV brings back two
fifth-year seniors who figure to be major rotational players in Luis Rodriguez and Justin Webster, while key transfers Kalib Boone (Oklahoma State), Keylan Boone (Pacific) and Jalen Hill (Oklahoma) are experienced fifth-year guys as well.
“All of them have brought a high level of competition,” Kruger said. “We’ve been doing a lot of 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 so far, and the competition level has been really good every day. With the returners, we knew what we were getting, so it’s been great seeing the new guys on the same page.”