UNLV head coach Marvin Menzies is still looking to build a good core for future generations of UNLV basketball teams. The Runnin’ Rebels are in a never-ending struggle to find consistency in an ever-changing amateur sports landscape. The first two seasons (and even more before) of the “Menzies Era” has seen a different point guard in each, and this year will be third but this year’s ball-handler, sophomore Amauri Hardy, can be the one to change that pattern.
In his freshman year, Hardy was fighting for playing time behind senior guards Jovan Mooring and Jordan Johnson, while also stuck behind returning starter Kris Clyburn. He did, though, appear in all 33 games and averaged nearly 19 minutes per contest behind the previously mentioned crowded backcourt. That alone gives him some much needed experience, which is never bad.
“He has the confidence because he’s been there, he knows what it looks like, at least at the high school level, and to be a target,” Menzies told the Las Vegas Review-Journal last year. “Confidence is built by how you roll and how you handle your business daily, so it wasn’t surprising to me, much like Brandon (McCoy). Guys that have a lot of accolades in high school usually have seen some form of what would be pressure, but have had some experience handling it.”
Coming into the program as a 3-star prospect, he’s got the talent to be a score-first guard, much like former hometown hero Anthony Marshall. That might be exactly what UNLV needs coming into this season. After losing three of its top four scorers from last season (Mooring, Johnson and Brandon McCoy), the Rebs have to manufacture their next scoring option behind star forward Shakur Juiston. Hardy will be able to penetrate the paint with elite scoring ability and also be capable of dishing down under to JuiceBox or Tervell Beck, if his shots start getting contested.
Defensively, Amauri has the quickness to stay in front of opposing team’s guards. He’s also capable of getting his hands in to disrupt passing lanes or knock the ball loose off of dribbles. As with many young players, being coachable is the biggest key when it comes to overall defense as a player progresses to higher levels of play, and Hardy seems to be all-in. Don’t expect him to make an all-defense team yet, as he will continuously get better with more reps and more playing time.
Marvin Menzies’ has a choice to make coming into this season, and even if Noah Robotham gets the nod to start the season as the primary ball handler, still expect Hardy to get plenty of playing time as the season goes forth. Maybe he can start at shooting guard and split the duties of PG with Robotham, much like last season with Mooring and Johnson, or maybe he will get his chance to take the reins of the school from opening night and continue it into the rest of his Rebel career.
Or maybe Antavion Collum (see: Baby LeBron) decides to commit to UNLV next year and we can have this whole conversation again. In that case, let’s make it an even 4-for-4. Either way, it’a a good problem to have, if the player handling the ball gets the job done.