Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009 | 2:15 a.m.
UNLV sophomore forward Chace Stanback is back, sort of. There’s a 6-foot-8 guy in a No. 22 jersey out at practice hitting jumpers, sliding on defense and executing hard dribble drives.
However, the UCLA transfer knows he has some work left to return to normal after badly turning his left ankle three weeks ago today.
“Every time I jump, I try to come down on the right one,” Stanback said after Monday’s run inside the Cox Pavilion practice gym. “Until I’m more comfortable … ”
In the next couple of weeks, Stanback said, the feel and flow of the game and his teammates will again become second nature to him.
“Watching him today, he made some good plays and he hit some shots,” said junior forward Matt Shaw, who played with Stanback at Los Angeles Fairfax High. “I don’t think it’ll take a full week. Each day he steps on the floor, he’ll feel more comfortable.
“Naturally, it’s different than what it used to feel like. But where he is and what he’s done, he’s fine.”
On Oct. 13, in the Thomas & Mack Center, Stanback rose to defend a shot by guard Tre’Von Willis. In mid-air, Willis bailed out, passing the ball to a teammate.
Stanback landed on the outside of his left ankle.
It actually looked worse than it was, according to trainer Dave Tomchek. Even Monday, it was easy to spot discoloration up to the middle of Stanback’s left shin.
Still, Tomchek pegged Nov. 1 for Stanback’s return. He came back Saturday, taking part in all but a few drills in the practice gym that players and students call The Dungeon.
“I didn’t expect him to play at all Saturday, but he got in a few reps and felt good,” said Rebels coach Lon Kruger.
“He’s about 85 to 90 percent,” Tomchek said. “His progression is good.”
Was it among the top 10 percent of the worst ankle sprains the veteran Tomchek has seen?
“In looks? Yes,” he said. “Pain? No.”
Stanback looked at ease in a 5-on-0 full-court drill.
He hasn’t lost the nuances of the offense or awareness of teammates. In the left post, with his back to the perimeter and Wallace, on his squad, beyond the 3-point line, Stanback directed Wallace.
With his right hand above him, Stanback either pointed to the left, to get Wallace, on the right, to move that way; or Stanback pointed to the right, to get Wallace, on the left, to move that way.
Not once did Stanback look back to see where Wallace was – he knew.
Carlos Lopez guarded Stanback, and when Darris Santee closed in for a double team, Stanback easily passed out of it.
When Stanback lost a rebound in traffic, assistant coach Greg Grensing said, “how you feelin’ Chace?” Stanback nodded. He was doing fine. No time to stop.
He blocked out Lopez and yanked down the rebound. He took another rebound into the left post and executed a nifty double-pump maneuver that lost two defenders, but the close shot fell short.
Then he made an ill-fated move on help defense, giving Oscar Bellfield a clear path to the basket in which the sophomore guard capitalized.
And Derrick Jasper sank a jumper along the right baseline against Stanback, who missed a jumper and then missed a leaner on the left side.
Stanback just missed deflecting a bounce pass from Lopez that Santee converted for an inside shot, but he followed that by boxing out Lopez and snatching a rebound over Santee.
Jasper left Justin Hawkins in his wake, but he found Stanback waiting to smother his interior shot on the left side.
Perhaps Stanback’s move of the day was his fake turn to the right, quick twist to the left and subsequent 17-foot jumper over Todd Hanni.
He was a gear or two slow on one full-court sprint, but it was toward the end of the practice. Kruger said getting into top-flight condition will be as challenging for Stanback as getting in synch with his teammates.
Moments later, though, Stanback drilled a 3-point shot on Tyler Norman, who was caught on a switch. Stanback went 19 days without participating in a practice drill.
“It’s still pretty sore, but it felt good to get back out there,” he said. “I think I am favoring it a little bit, especially on certain cuts. But for the most part it feels good.”
That the injury happened before practice officially started was a blessing for Stanback, who averaged 5.8 minutes and 1.8 points in the 25 games he played for UCLA’s Final Four squad in 2007-08.
UNLV plays a closed-door scrimmage Saturday afternoon at Long Beach State, plays host to Washburn in a Nov. 10 exhibition and opens its season Nov. 14 against Pittsburg State at the Mack.
“It will feel like a game, even though it’s a scrimmage,” Stanback said of the Saturday meeting in Long Beach. “But I’m excited to see where I’m at. It’s a test. I need to get back into the flow cause I’ve been out so long.
“I think I can do it. My teammates are helping to push me through it. I’ll take it one day at a time and hope to get through it. The scrimmage is first.”
Stanback played so well, so frequently during his redshirt year in practice last season that many might expect a lot from him this season.
“I just play my game,” he said, “do whatever the team needs me to do and play hard.”
Shaw has seen Stanback’s game up close and personal.
“He’s very skilled,” Shaw said. “He can pretty much do anything on the floor. I expect him to play well. He’s very team-oriented. He’ll do whatever is asked of him. Anything.
“He’s a great shooter. I don’t think people know how well he can shoot. They can expect him to shoot all the time. He can drive and get to the hole, and he’s great on the boards, but he’s an incredible shooter.”