Will UNLV's Tre'Von Willis play next year despite felony charges?

Either Tre'Von Willis' attorney is merely talking a good game, or he truly believes the UNLV star will be cleared to play next season.

Willis, UNLV's leading scorer last season, has pleaded not guilty to felony domestic violence charges stemming from an argument between he and his girlfriend in June during which he allegedly choked her. A preliminary hearing for the case has been set for Nov. 22, 10 days after the Rebels are scheduled to open the 2010-11 season at home against UC Riverside.

"The police did a preliminary investigation and that is what is the basis of the charges," attorney Steve Wolfson told the Las Vegas Sun at Willis' arraignment hearing on Tuesday. "We're doing our own investigation and I'm confident that when all the facts and the truth comes out, that Tre'Von will play basketball this year for UNLV, have a great year, perhaps be the leading scorer again and have a great future."

It's certainly possible that Wolfson's correct that the evidence will eventually clear Willis of all wrongdoing, but it's also difficult to believe that UNLV coach Lon Kruger will allow the senior guard to play with outstanding felony charges. For example, Minnesota forward Trevor Mbakwe did not play a minute all last season and remains in limbo entering next season as a result of pending charges of felony assault against a Florida woman.

The incident in question in the Willis case took place at about 3 a.m. on June 29 at the apartment of 28-year-old Skye Sanders.

Authorities said the two began arguing because Sanders was sending text messages to her friends instead of spending time with Willis. A physical altercation then took place, police said, during which Willis allegedly choked Sanders.

Upon his arrest, Willis made a voluntary statement to police that he had been at the apartment with Sanders and they had a verbal argument, not a physical altercation, authorities said.

The potential loss of Willis deprives UNLV of a player who averaged 17.2 points per game last season, earned first-team all-conference honors and was among the top defensive players in the Mountain West as well. Every significant rotation player from last season's 25-win team returns for UNLV, but none of the backup guards can replace Willis' production.

It's going to be interesting to see how Kruger handles this situation. Willis' lawyer might be confident the senior guard will be on the court to lead the Rebels to what could be a special season, but the key is whether Kruger agrees.