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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Former ASU guard Kruger now playing for his dad at UNLV

    Kevin Kruger always wanted to play for his father. With the help of a bizarre rule passed by the NCAA this past year, he finally has that opportunity.

    After graduating from ASU over the summer, the point guard used Rule 2005-54 to use his final year of eligibility to play for his father Lon Kruger, UNLV’s head coach, instead of sticking it out with the Sun Devils.

    “”It’s been good,”” Kevin said in a phone interview yesterday. “”It feels very natural to do. I’m glad I did it.””

    Kevin, who is back after missing three games earlier this season with an ankle injury, joins a trio of Runnin’ Rebel guards in Wink Adams, Wendell White and Michael Umeh, all three of whom have averaged at least 13 points per game this season.

    “”He has better shooters around him than what he had (at ASU),”” said UA head coach Lute Olson, “”and I think the main thing that his dad is happy about having him over there (for) is he understands the system that Lon likes to run.””

    But this reunion was only made possible by the controversial rule that allows a student-athlete to take part in any graduate program in the nation and not be penalized by the usual transfer rules, which cause athletes to sit out a year before playing. Olson said there’s a strong push to get rid of the rule and that it will likely be dropped in the future because the affected schools aren’t happy at all.

    After ASU fired head coach Rob Evans – with whom Kevin was close – following last season, Kevin decided to end his collegiate career with his father, who coached the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks when Kevin originally made his decision to become a Sun Devil.

    “”The coaching change, nothing against coach Sendek, but if coach Evans would have stayed I would not have left,”” Kevin said.

    So all of a sudden Kevin’s walking into what he still feels is a rivalry game for him against the Wildcats, but it’s only November, and none of his teammates feel the same way. And Arizona has a better scouting report on Kevin than the typical nonconference opponent, having faced off against him six times the past three years.

    “”He’s still the same guy,”” Olson said of Kevin, who hit a career-high six 3s against the Wildcats in 2004. “”You can’t give him open looks or he really knocks the ball down.””

    The transition was made easier for Kevin as he played with some of his father’s squad the past two summers, helping him get a feel for his future teammates.

    Both Krugers said Kevin isn’t treated any differently now that he’s a Runnin’ Rebel, but the third-year UNLV coach said it’s been great to add the career 37.6 percent 3-point shooter. Kevin averaged 38.96 minutes per game last year, second in the nation, and has his name all over the ASU record books.

    Lon said he most needs his redshirt senior son for leadership and direction on the floor.

    “”He has a good idea what I’m looking for on the court,”” Lon said. “”The thing he’s most comfortable doing is getting the ball to the right people at the right place and right time.””

    It could be a high-scoring game between the Wildcats and Runnin’ Rebels, as the Wildcats rank first in scoring offense (94.8 points per game) and last in scoring defense (79.0) in the Pacific 10 Conference, and UNLV sits second in offense (82.0) and second-to-last in defense (72.0) in the Mountain West Conference.

    Also, Kevin leads an attack that seldom turns the ball over, averaging less than 12 per game, which is good for a conference-leading turnover margin of plus 5.8.

    “”It’s really important in a ball game like this because every turnover leads to transition opportunities for ‘Zona,”” Lon said. “”They really get out and go, so we have to take care of the basketball and get good shots each time down.””

    With his son in charge of making that happen, Lon likely feels more comfortable than he would with the typical point guard.

    But if Kevin struggles, as he did last year against the Wildcats with a career-high seven turnovers in McKale Center, Kevin said his mother likely won’t have any problems with her husband benching her son.

    “”She’s all about winning,”” Kevin said.

    – Roman Veytsman contributed to this report

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