UNLV basketball coach Kevin Kruger made a note of something about Keshon Gilbert, a newly minted point guard. That is also noted by senior wing Bryce Hamilton.
“He shows he has confidence,” said Hamilton on Thursday during Mountain West’s annual media days. “He comes in, shows that he can play with the older ones. He does a very good job at that. He’s got a killer. He’ll just learn and get better. Every day.”
Perhaps a bit of a cliché, but true in this case, as Gilbert is the only freshman on a squad flush with juniors and seniors and deserves respect for his competitive nature. The former Durango High standout impresses firstly with his demeanor and secondly with his defense.
It is who he is. What he does. How he’s going to play. Why he’s going to the floor this season.
“My offense always comes from my defense,” said Gilbert, who was named Mountain West Freshman of the Year on Wednesday preseason.
“If I get down to earth like this, then I’ll do it. … just be a dog. Work harder than my opponent. “
That’s how Gilbert always played – until he was a kid in Peoria, Illinois and St. Louis. Those who preceded his tenure in Las Vegas, where he began to realize his potential to flourish as a three-star recruit. During his freshman year 2017-18, he moved to Las Vegas and played for Durango for three years before completing his preparatory career with a state championship in St. Louis-Vashon.
He committed to UNLV at the beginning of his junior season and kept his promise amid the departure of former rebel coach TJ Otzelberger and the promotion of Kruger. The remainder of the freshmen of the program fizzled out, leaving Gilbert the only teenager on the team.
With that in mind, he’s running pretty feverishly, and Kruger believes the age difference serves as additional motivation.
“Being the youngest on the team … I think he almost uses that as a positive uncertainty when trying to prove himself with the older group every day,” said Kruger. “It gave him a boost to have a chance and be a good college player. Having that motivation was great. I think he will do great things this year. Because he just likes to play. … Sometimes you have to tell him to calm down a bit. “
Just not when he is defending himself in court.
In training, Gilbert thrives as a defender on the ball and often chases his point guard colleagues to the ground. He’s also grown up, now standing at six feet, and his size, length, speed, and activity give him the defensive versatility to check out some wings.
As he said, his attack is often a by-product of his defense – although he is a skilled ball handler who can drive, finish and kick while further refining his knight. However, Gilbert believes it has improved so that he can play the ball in certain situations.
The upper class players Jordan McCabe and Marvin Coleman also lead the point, and Gilbert played the ball in training with several ball handlers.
“He did everything that was asked of him,” said Kruger. “And we notice that in our approach. He has no opinion of his own about the way things should be done. If you try to help and coach him, he is very welcome. He wants to get better at it. “
Contact reporter Sam Gordon at [email protected] Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.