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Original Issue

25. UNLV Deep, balanced and free of the off-the-court distractions of the past, these unrebellious Rebels are up and running again

Soon after Latvia native Kaspars Kambala arrived in Las Vegas in
August 1997, he took in all his surroundings--the vast desert, the
neon skyline, the UNLV front line depleted by suspensions. He
then narrowed his gaze to a shiny object in his dorm room, the
1996-97 WAC Pacific Division Freshman of the Year plaque owned by
his roommate, sophomore guard Mark Dickel. Says Kambala, "I
decided my name would look good on one of those."

Indeed it does--though with a slightly different inscription.
After shifting to the Mountain Division before last season, the
Runnin' Rebels struggled through a year marked by three
suspensions, 12 starting lineups and, remarkably enough, a WAC
tournament championship and their first bid to the NCAA
tournament since 1991. Through it all, the 6'9", 250-pound
Kambala was a rock. With now departed Keon Clark and then junior
Kevin Simmons serving suspensions for accepting a trip to Orlando
from an agent, Kambala had eight double doubles in his first 11
games, including a 19-point, 10-rebound performance while matched
against Kansas All-America Raef LaFrentz. "All that playing time
was unexpected, but I sure liked it," says Kambala, who averaged
11.6 points and 7.4 rebounds for the season, numbers that earned
him his very own WAC Mountain Division Freshman of the Year

He should enjoy his playing time more this year, having polished
his game at Pete Newell's Big Man Camp this summer. "Kas has a
real knack for scoring with his back to the basket," says UNLV
coach Bill Bayno. "And he's as strong as anyone in the country."
(Not just in this country: As a 14-year-old, Kambala made the
third-longest hammer throw in Latvian history for his age group.)

When it comes to throwing weight around on UNLV's front line,
Kambala will get hefty help from Simmons and 6'7" newcomer Shawn
Marion (13.1 rebounds per game at Vincennes University in
Indiana). The backcourt of Dickel and Brian Keefe (41.7% from
three-point range) is solid too. "We may not be great at any one
position,'' says Bayno. "But I think we're very good at all of

Bayno is further encouraged by the absence of off-the-court
distractions. "Until midway through last year, we weren't a
team, just a collection of guys. But this is a team, the best
group I've had here in terms of talent, attitude and chemistry."




SF Shawn Marion 6'7" Jr. 23.5 ppg*
PF [**]Kevin Simmons 6'8" Sr. 11.5 ppg
C [**]Kaspars Kambala 6'9" So. 7.4 rpg
SG [**]Brian Keefe 6'4" Sr. 7.7 ppg
PG [**]Mark Dickel 6'1" Jr. 5.5 apg

'97-98 record: 20-13 Final rank (coaches' poll): unranked
[**]Returning starter *ppg as junior college sophomore