Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats vs. UNLV Running Rebels: Three top storylines



Why are we showing you a picture of Nick Foles? He has something in common with UNLV's starting point guard (Fox Sports video screen shot)

Why are we showing you a picture of Nick Foles? He has something in common with UNLV’s starting point guard (Fox Sports video screen shot)

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Top three storylines for tonight’s game:

1. UNLV point guard has ties to Tucson sports figures in more ways than one

Cody Doolin

Cody Doolin

UNLV guard Cody Doolin would not be starting against Arizona tonight if he and former Amphi High School basketball player Tim Derksen did not got into an altercation during a San Francisco practice Nov. 19, 2013.

Doolin’s boxing match with Derksen, after San Francisco coach Rex Walters reportedly gathered the other players around them, was enough to make Doolin walk away from the Dons’ program. Doolin reportedly left the team, which was only four games into the season, and made a trip home to Austin, Texas, to contemplate his next move.

The No. 2 assist man and 1,000-point career scorer in San Francisco history thought about leaving the sport entirely.

Doolin prepped at Austin’s Westlake High School, the same school that produced former Arizona quarterback Nick Foles. When Doolin was a freshman at Westlake in 2007, Foles was a senior. One more Westlake tie with Tucson: Pima College assistant coach Tommy Romano was the varsity co-captain of the Westlake team along with Foles in 2006-07.

Foles was a good enough basketball talent as a forward at Westlake that he thought about walking on Sean Miller’s first team in 2009-10.

Foles stuck with playing only football through his senior season in 2011.

After being enticed by UNLV coach Dave Rice to give basketball another try, Doolin decided to play as a senior with UNLV this year after completing his undergraduate requirements at San Francisco last school year.

“After I decided not to play anymore, Coach Rice was the first person to call me,” Doolin told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “He was just fantastic. He made me feel real comfortable. It seemed like the perfect fit for me.

“He didn’t guarantee me anything. Obviously, there’s a pretty rich history with UNLV basketball. I just know there’s a lot of really good players there, and I want to come in and try to help the team win.”

In his press conference Monday, Miller compared Doolin’s value with UNLV with that of T.J. McConnell at Arizo

“Their point guard Doolin is like a T.J. McConnell,” he said. “I watched their Portland game (when Doolin made a game-winning layup in the overtime game Dec. 17) and he really put the team on their back. Really impressed with him. He passes the ball, he can score, he shoots the ball, runs their team. He’s the engine that makes a lot of their guys go.”

2. No surprise UNLV has struggled despite a 7-3 record.

This is what Rice had to work with when practice started in October: Three transfers from Division I institutions (including Doolin) and six true freshmen.

Rice was forced to mesh a group of players from varied backgrounds and experience levels into one unit. He is less than two months into that process. The Rebels have more players from Maryland — junior guard Daquan Cook, freshman forward Dwayne Morgan and senior Jerome Seagears — than players from Nevada (junior forward Ben Carter and freshman guard Dantley Walker).


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NO. 3 ARIZONA (12-0) AT UNLV (7-3)
Tip Time: 8:05 p.m., Tucson time
TV: CBS Sports Network (Carter Blackburn/Doug Gottlieb/Jamie Erdahl)
Radio: Arizona IMG Sports Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)

Overall: UNLV leads, 11-7
In Las Vegas: UNLV leads, 7-1
Current Streak: Arizona won 1
Last Meeting: Arizona won, 63-58, on Dec. 7, 2013
Sean Miller vs. UNLV: 1-1


Perfect gift for any Arizona or college hoops fan this holiday season: A complete rundown of the Arizona basketball program as we might not know it put together by longtime Tucson sportswriters Steve Rivera and Anthony Gimino. Please e-mail Rivera, Gimino or for ordering details.

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Present RPI ranking of Arizona’s non-conference opponents. Arizona is No. 11 with a strength-of-schedule ranking of No. 103.
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Seagears (Rutgers) and Carter (Oregon) are transfers who must sit this season per NCAA transfer rules.

On top of that, 10 players have transferred out of the UNLV program in Rice’s three-plus years at UNLV, including guard Kendall Smith this season.

UNLV has only nine scholarship players available for the rest of this season.

“I choose to just look at guys and appreciate the contributions they made while they were here,” Rice told the Las Vegas Sun. “It’s a situation where I want guys to be here, I want guys to want to be here for a lot of years and finish their careers here, but when they don’t want to be here I understand it and we wish them the best when they move on.”

One significant change in the UNLV program since the days of Jerry Tarkanian is Rice’s commitment to recruit only high school prospects. He has only one junior college transfer — senior guard Jelan Kendrick (formerly of Mississippi) — but does not expect to sign more any time soon.

That development is ironic inasmuch as Rice, in his fourth year as UNLV’s coach, attended Mt. San Antonio College in California from 1987-89 before playing for Tarkanian.

3. Who’s the better freshman: UNLV’s Rashad Vaughn or Arizona’s Stanley Johnson?

Similar to Johnson, Vaughn, a wing player, was a consensus five-star recruit. He was ranked as the No. 8 player in the 2014 class by Scout (No. 1 at position), No. 8 player by Rivals (No. 2 at position) and No. 19 player by ESPN (No. 4 at position). He was a McDonald’s All-American who played in the 2014 game and helped the West team beat the East 105-102. He scored 14 points, recorded five rebounds and an assist in that game.

Johnson was a teammate of Vaughn’s in the McDonald’s game and registered eight points with four rebounds. He was rated a little higher by the recruiting publications than Vaughn.

Johnson was rated as the No. 3 overall prospect, the No. 1 small forward and the No. 1 player from California in his recruiting class by Rivals. He was tabbed as the No. 3 overall recruit, the top small forward and the top player from California in the recruiting class by Scout.

Vaughn, a teammate of Craig Victor at Henderson (Nev.) Findlay, leads the Rebels with 17.3 points a game. He is given the green light by Rice, attempting a team-high 134 shots. He is shooting only 28.3 percent from three-point range (13 of 46).

Johnson leads the Wildcats with 14.7 points a game. He has also taken the most shots of his team with 113.

The numbers indicate that Johnson is more efficient and in-tune with Miller’s offensive philosophy than Vaughn with Rice at the early stage of their development.

He is shooting 49.6 percent from the field (56 of 113) as compared to Vaughn (57 of 134 for 42.5 percent). Johnson has made 42.9 percent of his three-point attempts (13 of 35) while Vaughn has struggled from beyond the arc.

“Rashad Vaughn can get his own shot,” Miller said. “He’s averaging 17 a game and I don’t think he’s hit his stride shooting yet. But he’s capable of scoring 20 and anytime a perimeter player on the other end they’re very very dangerous.”

Part of Vaughn’s execution problem is having to adapt to Rice’s haphazard system with multiple players coming and going as noted before. Johnson has entered a structured Arizona program in Miller’s sixth season in which the players, to a man, talk about the process daily.


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PP: Productivity Points (Points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocked shots, FGs made, FTs made added together and then subtracted by missed FGs, missed FTs, personal fouls and turnovers)
MIN: Minutes played overall
PR: Productivity rating per minute played (Productivity points divided by minutes played)

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[table “” not found /] publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also has published articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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