Just a day after the death of former head coach Jerry Tarkanian, the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels basketball program took another major hit losing leading scorer Rashad Vaughn to a torn left meniscus. The injury occurred during the team’s 71-63 win over the Fresno State Bulldogs, and his status for the post-season remains a major question mark. Still, some close to the program feel there’s a possibility of the freshman’s return to the court during the Mountain West Tournament or possible NCAA Tournament berth.
“We are very disappointed for Rashad,” coach Dave Rice said in a statement. “He is having a great freshman year and has been an extremely valuable player on our team. We know he will work very hard to get back on the court as soon as possible and we will support him in every way.”
Vaughn has been among college basketball’s most exciting freshman, and many NBA scouts view him as a projected first round selection, but the most recent injury could scare off potential suitors. This is the second injury to Vaughn’s left knee, and injuries to a player’s lower extremity are the most damaging to an NBA career. Nonetheless, Vaughn posses an electrifying scoring ability, averaging a team-leading 17.8 points and guiding a young Runnin’ Rebels squad.
In 2014-15, UNLV has struggled with inconsistencies, but had finally been rounding into form prior to the injury. The Runnin’ Rebels have won four of their past five contests and face a difficult stretch of games that could make or break their post-season chances. Playing without Vaughn in the lineup will be an extremely tough obstacle to overcome, but if they’re able to maintain their high level of play, UNLV could sneak their way into the NCAA Tournament.
*Section Photo credit to Ethan Miller, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to bustingbrackets.com.