The official attendance records may not reflect just how bad things got for UNLV basketball last year, but there were nights when you would have been hard pressed to count 4,000 people inside the Thomas & Mack Center. So it was encouraging to see about 500 enthusiastic fans turn out on Thursday evening for the Rebel Summer Fan Fest, a free event at Town Square that was part pep rally, part ticket drive and part meet-and-greet, all designed to rekindle the spirit of the Rebels’ diehards.
With free apparel giveaways, carnival games and photo ops, the two-hour gathering gave UNLV fans a chance to mingle with players, coaches and athletics administrators in a casual environment.
The main event was a panel Q&A with five of the school’s head coaches, with Marvin Menzies (men’s basketball), Tony Sanchez (football), Chris Shaw (men’s soccer), Cindy Fredrick (women’s volleyball) and Kathy Olivier (women’s basketball) each making a pitch for continued fan support.
Menzies pointed to UNLV’s incoming recruiting class — ranked 13th in the nation by one scouting service — as a reason to be pumped about the 2017-18 season.
“We’re obviously excited about the new guys,” Menzies said. “Great recruiting class, great guys — we’re excited about the talent we brought in. We recruited great kids and kids that can be true Runnin’ Rebels.”
The pitch worked on at least one couple. David and Ofelia have had men’s basketball season tickets for five years but were close to not renewing after last year’s 10-21 campaign. Then Menzies secured one of the nation’s best recruiting classes, and the husband and wife found themselves at a Fan Fest ticket kiosk, putting down a deposit for their 2017-18 season tickets.
“I was heavily trying to get him to consider getting rid of [the tickets],” Ofelia said. “He ended up renewing because the recruiting class, and I was like, ‘I can’t argue with that.’”
Incoming basketball freshman Tervell Beck was on hand to meet fans, as was women’s basketball player Paris Strawther.
“It’s super exciting,” said Strawther, a sophomore forward. “It’s positive energy, and it’s just fun to be out here with all the Las Vegas locals so we can hopefully try to get them to come to our games.”