Jovan Mooring winding down memorable career at UNLV

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L.E. Baskow

UNLV Rebels guard Jovan Mooring (30) elevates to the basket past New Mexico Lobos forward Joe Furstinger (5) during their game at the Thomas & Mack Center on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018.

Wed, Feb 28, 2018 (2 a.m.)

Jovan Mooring hasn't played his entire career at UNLV. The well-traveled senior had two separate stops at the junior-college level before he got to Las Vegas (single seasons at Lamar State-Port Arthur and South Suburban, respectively, with a year off in between), but he has poured so much into his time as a Rebel that his final home game on Wednesday will feel like the end of something.

Mooring will be honored before Wednesday's game against UNR as part of UNLV's Senior Day ceremony, along with senior guard Jordan Johnson, and though he's only played 61 games at UNLV, Mooring deserves a little recognition.

His career in scarlet and gray has been unique, to say the least. Mooring's playing style combines the kind of hard-nosed defense you'd expect from a Chicago native, old-man guile to draw fouls by the bushel, and a devil-may-care attitude toward shot selection. It's a skill set that has made Mooring alternately thrilling and frustrating during his time at UNLV, and it's fair to say the fan base has developed a love-hate relationship with the mercurial guard.

The Thomas & Mack faithful groan when Mooring pulls up from 30 feet with the game on the line. If the shot swishes, they go wild. If it misses, they take to social media to voice their displeasure. To his credit, Mooring has always been OK with that deal.

Mooring understands and even embraces the tenuous nature of the fans' support.

"I think my play style just makes me an easy target," Mooring said with a laugh before a Tuesday afternoon practice. "Fans here have things that they've seen over the years, and I guess I do some things they're not used to, and they take it the wrong way and it upsets them."

For all the flaws and quirks in his game, Mooring has been undeniably productive as a Rebel. He has averaged 13.4 points and 3.6 assists per game while making 35.3 percent of his 3-pointers over the last two years, and he has taken 19 charges so far this season, most on the team. He's now 24 made 3-pointers away from cracking UNLV's all-time top 10.

Head coach Marvin Menzies is of the mind that Mooring has provided more highs than lows during their two years together.

"Just his toughness and his grittiness and his confidence," Menzies said when asked what he'll remember most about Mooring. "He's taken us on a roller coaster, and roller coasters are fun. He's going to leave here, in my mind, a guy that challenged me, but at the same time gave me a lot of joy and a lot of good memories. And as a human being he's leaving UNLV, but he's not leaving my family because he's a special kid."

A chronological look at Mooring's unique, puzzling, and downright fun career at UNLV so far:

Jovan Mooring timeline

June 1, 2016 - Mooring signs with UNLV

After averaging 26.6 points per game in 2015-16, Mooring was named the Division II Junior College National Player of the Year and began drawing recruiting interest from then-UNLV head coach Chris Beard. Beard ultimately bolted for Texas Tech, but Menzies stepped in and continued to court Mooring, landing him just a few weeks after taking the UNLV job.

Jan. 10, 2017 - UNLV 71, New Mexico 66

After beginning the season as a reserve, Mooring was a starter by the time Mountain West play rolled around, and this marked the first time he took over a game down the stretch for the Rebels. He totaled 19 points, six assists and five steals to beat New Mexico on the road, including a clutch 3-point play to take the lead with 2:54 to play.

Jan. 21, 2017 - UNLV 87, Air Force 85 (2OT)

Mooring set career highs with 30 points and seven 3-pointers, and his buzzer-beating triple to force overtime was the shot of the season for UNLV. He then scored five of the Rebels' last six points in the second overtime to clinch the win.

Feb. 25, 2017 - UNR 94, UNLV 58

The Rebels' ninth consecutive loss was historic, as UNR ran up the score and recorded the largest margin of victory in the series between the in-state rivals. Mooring shot just 4-of-10 from the field and later pointed to this game as a low point of the season.

March 8, 2017 - San Diego State 62, UNLV 52 (OT)

Mooring scored a team-high 18 points, hit 4-of-8 from 3-point range and had the Rebels poised for a big upset in the first round of the Mountain West tournament, as they led SDSU by 21 points in the second half. But he fouled out with five minutes to play in regulation, and the Rebels stumbled on to a season-ending loss.

Nov. 25, 2017 - UNLV 101, Southern Utah 82

Mooring made 5-of-10 from the field, but an ill-advised 3-point heave in the second half caused Menzies to pull him from the game. Mooring watched the final seven minutes from the bench.

Nov. 29, 2017 - Northern Iowa 77, UNLV 68 (OT)

An ice-cold shooting performance (3-of-17 FGs, 1-of-7 3FGs) wasn't the worst part about this game for Mooring. With UNLV protecting a 1-point lead in the final seconds, he was called for a dubious blocking foul that allowed Northern Iowa to tie the game from the free-throw line and force overtime, where the Rebels were outscored, 16-7.

Dec. 2, 2017 - Arizona 91, UNLV 88 (OT)

With UNLV on the verge of an epic upset, Menzies put the ball in Mooring's hands. But instead of driving to the basket on the final possession of a tied game, as the play was designed, Mooring pulled up for a long, off-balance 3-pointer. The shot missed, the game went to overtime, and Arizona came out on top. Mooring's launch had his teammates and coaches grumbling for days afterward.

Dec. 22, 2017 - UNLV 94, Northern Colorado 91

Down by eight points with less than five minutes to play, Mooring erupted for 10 points down the stretch to lead UNLV to a rousing home win. He hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:09 to play and finished with 25 points.

Dec. 30, 2017 - Boise State 83, UNLV 74

Mooring went cold again in a winnable game at the Thomas & Mack Center, as he made just 2-of-14 from the field and finished with eight points.

Jan. 3, 2018 - UNLV 82, San Jose State 76 (OT)

After string of rough performances and increasing criticism over shot selection, Mooring tried to prove a point by attempting just one shot in regulation. It was weird.

Jan. 3, 2018 - UNLV 82, San Jose State 76 (OT)

His point presumably made, Mooring finally snapped out of it and attempted a shot in overtime. And it just happened to be the biggest play of the game, as his 3-pointer broke a 69-69 tie and pointed the Rebels toward a much-needed road win.

Jan. 10, 2018 - UNLV 81, Air Force 76

After making 2,000 practice shots before the game, Mooring regained his touch and made 4-of-8 from long range at Air Force. He finished with 15 points, and his dagger 3 put UNLV up 80-75 and clinched the game with 19 seconds to play.

Feb. 7, 2018 - UNLV 86, UNR 78

In the quintessential Jovan Mooring game, he went off for 31 points, including a handful of crazy-difficult shots down the stretch that silenced a hostile sellout crowd at UNR. With the game tied and six minutes on the clock, Mooring scored nine points down the stretch and secured a key loose ball in the final minute. Classic Mooring.

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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