Updated November 13, 2021 - 5:29 am
UNLV’s game Wednesday night against Gardner-Webb had just reached its first media timeout, and Royce Hamm already had made quite a statement.
In that short amount of time, he had three points, three rebounds, a blocked shot and a steal.
That was an indication of what was to come. By the end of the season-opening 64-58 win, Hamm had 18 points, 17 rebounds and four blocks, his play inside especially important given the Rebels’ outside shooting trouble (2 of 25 from 3-point range).
It was quite a debut for Hamm, a 6-foot-9-inch senior transfer from Texas. He didn’t have as big a role with the Longhorns, averaging 1.9 and 2.3 rebounds, but first-year UNLV coach Kevin Kruger brought in Hamm to be a central player.
As Wednesday showed, Hamm is capable of taking on that extra responsibility.
“We had the opportunity a handful of years ago to talk to Royce and recruit him out of high school,” Kruger said. “Then watching him throughout the years at Texas, we knew how talented he was, how big of an athlete he was. They literally had five guys that could go in the first round or early second round of the NBA draft, and he stayed there and played his role, but we knew that he was somebody that played hard. But I don’t know that we knew it truly was an everyday thing.”
Kruger said Hamm does more than go hard each day in practice. He brings enthusiasm and joy and serves as his teammates’ biggest cheerleader.
Perhaps that was why senior guard Bryce Hamilton was so happy, sitting next to Hamm in the postgame news conference, to talk about how thrilled he was to see Hamm have such a strong debut.
“He’s probably one of our hardest workers,” Hamilton said. “We expect that from Royce. He does that every single day.”
Hamm gets his next opportunity at 5 p.m. Saturday when California visits the Thomas & Mack Center. Considering the Golden Bears on Tuesday lost 80-67 at home to UC San Diego, which is playing its second Division I season, Hamm could put up big numbers again, especially if his minutes increase.
He accomplished what he did against Gardner-Webb in just 28 minutes because Kruger played nine players in an effort to see exactly what kind of lineup he has.
“I definitely want to keep being consistent and doing whatever the team needs me to do to win,” Hamm said.
Who: UNLV vs. California
When: 5 p.m. Saturday
Where: Thomas & Mack Center
TV: Mountain West Network/Stadium (stream)
Radio: KWWN (1100 AM, 100.9 FM)