The UNLV women’s basketball program exceeded expectations under first year head coach Lindy La Rocque, finishing in second place after being picked in ninth. Despite their season ending with an upset loss to Wyoming in the Mountain West Conference Tournament, the Lady Rebels plan to return better than ever.
UNLV’s overall record last season was 15-9. As a result, La Rocque is known for having one of the best rookie seasons as a first year coach, and she also scored the MW Coach of the Year award.
After completing the last season strong, La Rocque is confident in each players’ abilities and what they can accomplish as a team. The Lady Rebels will welcome several new transfer athletes and incoming freshmen. There will be five returning players.
The Lady Rebels have five new freshmen added to the roster. One being Alyssa Brown, coming from Tucson, Arizona, who averaged 25 points per game, 8.5 rebounds and 3.5 steals.
“[Brown] had an amazing high school career in Arizona,” La Rocque said. “She was top three in scoring all-time in the state, which is a lot of points.”
“Just like every freshman, it will take time adjusting and transiting to college basketball,” La Rocque said. “To be able to score that many points in high school, you have to do something well. She is very versatile in her play. I am very excited, but there is no pressure on our freshmen to feel like they have to do things right away.”
UNLV also added two new transfer students, who have experience in playing college basketball. Khayla Rooks transferred from the University of Washington to play as a Rebel in her last year of NCAA eligibility. During her career playing for the Huskies, she averaged 4.2 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists.
“[Rooks] has a lot of experience playing against good players in a great conference like the Pac 12,” La Rocque said. “I am excited and counting on her to bring that veteran leadership and wisdom to our team.”
Great offense and defense makes a team that can be dominant on the court. Rebounding will be key for the Lady Rebels this upcoming season. Last season, UNLV finished 18th, out of all Division I schools in the country, in defensive rebounds, averaging 29.5 rebounds per game.
“It’s about effort,” La Rocque said. “We can control the focus we put on it. Rebounding will continue to be a part of the team’s identity. Speaking of expectations, we have an expectation to uphold some of those numbers or even improve them.”
Offense is a department the Lady Rebels should have locked down, as well. With players like freshman Kiara Jackson, who scored 131 points in 12 games her senior year in high school, and transfer student Essence Booker from Ball State University, who scored 142 points at the end of her previous season, the future for the Lady Rebels looks bright.
La Rocque said she needs the experienced players to guide the younger players. Three players, Booker, Jackson and freshman Taylin Smith will all work together this upcoming season in the point guard position to run the offense.
“The freshman will need time to adjust and learn how we are going to run our offense,” La Roque said. “I am excited for Essence to guide Kiara and Taylin. As we continue throughout the year, I think this will be really good for us.”
The official schedule for the 2021-2022 non-conference season was recently released. La Rocque is overall excited about their schedule.
“We are going to be challenged,” La Rocque said. “Texas Tech is a more key game, with them being a power five school. We have a lot of great opponents. Northern Arizona State is good and Montana State is good, so we are going to be challenged and pushed in ways I think will help our team grow. I am really excited for our pre-season.”
The Lady Rebels will open their 2021-22 season on the road against Oral Roberts on Nov. 9. Their home opener is also on Nov. 9 against Montana State.