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Big turnout watches Rebels’ final practice before departing to Canada

The only challenge UNLV basketball faced during its practice at Mendenhall Center didn’t happen on the court. It was making sure they could accommodate all the fans who came out to the team’s practice Saturday morning at Mendenhall Center that was open to the public.

“It was a great turnout. It was definitely more than we expected,” UNLV coach Kevin Kruger said of the standing room only crowd that showed up. “We had to run and get chairs to make everyone as comfortable as possible.”

The Rebels held their final practice Saturday before the team departs for three exhibition games in Canada that begin on Tuesday.

In the 10 extra practices the Rebels were allowed to have in preparation of their foreign tour, Kruger and his staff put the focus on getting everyone on the roster — which includes eight new players — acclimated with each other and familiar with their system.

He hopes that the exhibition games will lay a foundation the team can build upon once fall workouts begin.

“[The Canadian tour] gives us the opportunity to put them in game situations to learn and get it on film,” Kruger said. “That’s why we’re doing it so November doesn’t feel like the first game.”

During the three exhibition games, Kruger plans to experiment with the lineup and rotations. Along with learning more about new additions to the roster, he also sees the exhibition games as a chance for players to earn minutes in the rotation this season.

Kruger wants to see his team grown offensively. He said much of the focus during practice has been on defense, but he wants to see the players create scoring opportunities for each other, knock down open 3-pointers and score in transition.

Kruger said they have not done a deep dive into scouting their opponents. “A lot of it is kind of throwing our guys out to the wolves a little bit and see what they can figure out,” Kruger said. “That’s going to be the fun part of it.”

Kruger said the team has time carved out in its schedule to sightsee and have as many team-bonding moments as possible. As much as the players have put an emphasis on leaving Canada with three wins, they know the trip is about more than basketball.

“These trips always bring out the best in teams because we’re able to get some games before the season,” senior guard Justin Webster said. “We’ll be able to bond, get to know each other more and see how well we play together. It’s going to be fun.”

Fifth-year guard Jordan McCabe said the team isn’t putting too much pressure on itself during these games. They are instead focusing on treating each game as a learning experience.

“We want to make sure we’re enjoying ourselves and having fun out there,” McCabe said. “That’s when we’re at our best.”

Contact Alex Wright at awright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlexWright1028 on Twitter.

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