LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Cameron Burist always wanted to play basketball at UNLV. Ever since he could remember, really.

What most likely sealed it for him happened when he was 12 years old. His favorite team, the Rebels, stunned No. 1 North Carolina 90-80 in the championship game of the Las Vegas Invitational at Orleans Arena. Rebels 90, Tar Heels 80. Nov. 26, 2011. That score, that date. Most likely etched in his mind.

“Justin Hawkins, Chace Stanback, Anthony Marshall,” Burist says recalling some of the players on his favorite UNLV team, coach Dave Rice’s 2011-2012 squad.

Burist, a 6-foot-3 senior guard who was a standout at Liberty High School, averaging 17.7 points his senior year, is down to the final days of his UNLV playing career.

UNLV, 17-12 overall, closes its Mountain West regular season Saturday when it faces intrastate rival Nevada-Reno at the Lawlor Events Center. Tipoff in Reno is 2 p.m.

After that, it’s the Mountain West tournament, which begins Wednesday (March 8) at the Thomas & Mack Center. The MW tourney champ clinches an NCAA Tournament berth. Winning the MW tournament is perhaps the only way the Rebels can extend their season. With a 6-11 conference record, UNLV’s chances in the MW are pretty slim.

After two seasons and 60 games for Mesa (Arizona) Community College, Burist came to UNLV as a walk-on. He appeared in four games last season, three this season, so as an athlete he’s had to adjust to having a limited role.

But otherwise? “It’s been everything I thought it would be,” the Las Vegas native said. “I get to live at home, save on rent and that, and all my friends and family come to the games.

“A lot of positives. A lot of positives.”

Not playing a bunch of minutes, he admits, has been different. But he’s come to grips with it and says now he tries to perform his best and compete his hardest in practices, “those are my days, my game days.”

Before walking on at UNLV, Burist was recruited by a couple of NCAA-II schools, but his heart was with UNLV. When you’re young, life can be so much about achieving goals, making dreams come true.

Coach Kevin Kruger after practice Friday at the Mendenhall Center praised Burist, one of three Las Vegas area high school products on this year’s roster (redshirt sophomore Isaiah Cottrell, Bishop Gorman, and Nick Walters, Coronado, are the others). He applauded Burist’s dedication as a student and for his contributions to the community.

Burist will graduate in May with a psychology degree. He’s a registered behavior technician who works with autistic children, helping them learn to confidently perform simple tasks, including spelling and writing.

Kruger said Burist is what can happen when a player chooses to stay home to continue his athletic career. Those local kids, he said, have a special appreciation for their hometown team, in this case the Rebels.

“When you have local kids who grow up following and watching the Runnin’ Rebels, there’s something to that,” Kruger said, alluding perhaps to Burist’s childhood memory of that 2011-12 UNLV team. “That’s something we’re trying to build here. There’s seventh- and eight-graders right now who are watching these guys, and they’re proud to cheer for them.

“If they continue to play basketball, one day they want to be a Runnin’ Rebel.”

Burist was one of four players honored Wednesday at Senior Night before UNLV’s final regular-season home game, a 91-66 loss to Utah State. He joined fellow senior teammates EJ Harkless, Jordan McCabe and Elijah Parquet and their families in a brief pregame ceremony.

Burist’s mother, father and stepfather attended and walked with him to center court to see him get a hug and handshake from the coach.

And a few hours later, Burist got into the game, playing 50 seconds and sinking a pair of free throws.

For Kruger, a little playing time was a way to thank Burist for his commitment to the program. “It would have been nice to get him in there if things were the other way,” Kruger said.

As for Burist, it was a step toward transitioning away from college, away from basketball and into another pursuit.

He plans to stay in the Las Vegas valley, to continue working with autistic children, to use his degree, to stay close to family. His vision remains Las Vegas. And in some ways he’s still a fan. Older and wiser.

“It’s home,” he said. “I plan to be here, to make my career here.”