Many of the Lady Rebels will be playing for the first time in a scarlet and gray uniform, and with their first game of the season only two weeks away, team building will be the priority to help gear towards a successful season.
“I think it’s flowed easier than I thought,” said Jade Thomas, one of this year’s captains. “Obviously, with eight new players, it’s kind of hard to decide what’s going to go well and what’s going to go wrong. I think we have done a really good job transitioning with all the new people and gel really well all together.”
Sophomore Desi-Rae Young was named to the Preseason All-Mountain West Team. Last season, Young averaged 11.4 points per game and 6.8 rebounds and led the Lady Rebels in scores and field goal percentage (51 percent).
“We have all been hanging out,” said Young. “When all the freshmen and transfers got here we all hung out. We did a lot of team bonding like goat yoga, we went roller skating, we went to the movies together. We have been doing a lot of stuff, so it’s been real good.”
The Lady Rebels are fairly young this year with only a few returners and upperclassmen.
Despite being young, they are still most likely to be successful this season behind Coach Lindy LaRoque, who was named Mountain West Coach of the Year last season and with Young, who was named Mountain West Freshman of the Year last season.
“The biggest transition for me was coming in and kind of already being that leader,” said Khayla Rooks, a transfer student from Washington State University. “Coming in as the oldest person on the team, I already knew I kind of had to have some leadership. That was a big adjustment because it’s a new team and nobody knows each other, so I wasn’t expecting to come in and lead straight away.”
Rooks stands at 6 feet 1 inch tall and plays as a forward for the Lady Rebels. Rooks played for the Washington State Huskies for four years and decided to take her talents to UNLV for her last year of NCAA eligibility.
“First and foremost it’s closer to home,” said Rooks. “I am from San Diego and my mom has been out here a few times already. Also, because Coach Lindy is such a great coach and the coaching staff is amazing. They have winning history and I am excited to see what this journey has for me in store.”
The Lady Rebels have been putting in work on the court every practice. LaRoque runs practice for a little over two hours and has the Lady Rebels playing at game speed during practice.
The Lady Rebels continue to work on offensive drills and defensive drills.
Offensively, the Lady Rebels work on their ball handling and control skills when making a move to the basket, either between the legs, cross over or behind the back. Along with driving to the basket and kicking the ball out to a guard from beyond the arc to knock down the shot.
LaRoque had taller players, like Young and Rooks, work on their inside game and post up moves.
“No one is holding me,” said Young. “Someone might block me here and there, but then I’m going to have to go right back at them.”
Guarding these girls down low will be tough for opponents when they are fed the ball.
“My mid-range is really good,” said Rooks. “I feel like the only thing stopping my mid-range is me missing shots, but I think it’s probably my best.”
Defensively, the Lady Rebels work on closing out three-point shooters at the three-point line, guarding the post when down low and different defensive formations.
The Lady Rebels are predicted to have the third best record in the Mountain West Conference this season with Fresno State Bulldogs at the No. 1 spot and New Mexico Lobos at the No. 2 spot.
“This year is going to be different from last year,” said Young. “You know, COVID is going down and things like that are changing, so we just want to make it a good year. Better than the last.”
The Lady Rebels are facing some big teams this season, like Texas Tech, California State, Fresno and the New Mexico Lobos, whose conference record was 11-3 last season.
“We have a lot of work to do,” LaRoque said. “I think the biggest thing for our team is continuing to build that chemistry, conrotatory with each other on the court you know.
“They have a great time off the court. We got to create that energy on the court and the trust and the accountability. We are hard at work at it everyday and especially when advisory hits during the season that is what we are going to fall back on.”
The Lady Rebels kick off their season facing the California State Los Angeles Golden Eagles on Nov. 3 at 6:30 p.m. at the Cox Pavilion