Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010 | 2:15 a.m.
- Opponent: Grand Canyon (exhibition)
- Where: Thomas & Mack Center
- When: 7 p.m.
- TV: None
- Radio: ESPN 1100 AM/98.9 FM
If anyone on the UNLV men's basketball roster knows how to make being out of position look like no big thing, it's junior forward Chace Stanback.
A quick glimpse of the wiry 6-foot-8 Los Angeles native, combined with knowledge of his feathery touch from the perimeter, and you immediately think 'small forward.'
Last season, out of necessity, he was asked to fill a bigger role — literally.
Stanback's first season on the floor at UNLV following a transfer from UCLA saw him quietly average 10.7 points and a crucial 5.8 rebounds per game.
While playing power forward.
Now, a year later, thanks to an infusion of promising new interior talents, Stanback looks to breathe a little easier back at his natural position.
"I like being on the wing, having people setting screens for me for once," he said with a grin. "I don't mind getting out and playing (power forward). It just shows that our team is pretty versatile and we can all play different positions."
As a junior, Stanback will still see time at the power forward spot, but it won't be made his top priority by coach Lon Kruger. Last season, the term 'power forward' applied somewhat loosely to Stanback, who split his time on offense between the paint and the perimeter, but was mostly camped down low on the defensive end.
The Rebels now have a trio of big men who all appear to be capable of handling big minutes and being, well, big presences.
Junior Brice Massamba continues to improve as his physique continues to slim, sophomore Kansas transfer Quintrell Thomas appears ready to provide a rugged presence on the boards that UNLV sorely missed a year ago and redshirt freshman Carlos Lopez may have the most upside of the three.
Meanwhile, if they live up to their collective billing, Stanback will be freed up and can make opponents pay by doing what he knows best.
It's been on display at team practices over the last two weeks, and will be there for all to see when the Rebels play their exhibition opener at 7 p.m. Tuesday night at the Thomas & Mack Center against Grand Canyon University. The Antelopes will be the first to see a bigger-than-normal lineup from UNLV, who at times will deploy Stanback at the same time as a combination of two of the three natural bigs.
It can be argued that since practices began on Oct. 15, Stanback has been the most impressive player on the floor at any given moment.
His outside shot is smoother than ever, while a summer full of rehabbing a nagging left ankle injury and adding some strength has added to his explosiveness.
"My ankle's not as sore as last year," he said of the sprain suffered last October that lingered throughout the season. "I did a lot of rehab on it, trying to get it stronger, did a lot of calf raises.
"(At small forward) I can make plays for other teammates. Also, crashing the boards from the 3-point line has always been something I've liked to do."
This year, though, the UNLV staff is hoping that Stanback's rebounding prowess from the perimeter will be merely an added bonus to what the bigs contribute rather than being a necessity.
As a sophomore, Stanback's 5.8 rpg were by far a team-high, while none of the team's three designated 'bigs' averaged more than 3.2. It was especially impressive when you compared Stanback's 210-pound frame to those of some of the interior players he was regularly banging up against.
He said he learned tricks of the trade that helped round out his game, going up against the likes of San Diego State's Malcolm Thomas and Utah's David Foster, among several others.
Stanback is also using his past experiences to help usher in a protégé, of sorts, in fellow UCLA transfer Mike Moser.
Moser, who like Stanback spent just one season with the Bruins before packing up and heading out, has been equally eye-catching in practices, essentially playing the Stanback role on the scout team.
Also standing 6-foot-8, Moser and Stanback not only go head-to-head daily, but also have very similar skill sets. They spent a good portion of the summer working out together in Los Angeles, too.
"It's almost too perfect," Moser said of the situation. "He's been through everything that I'm preparing to go through, from leaving (UCLA) to coming here to being a redshirt, the transfer life, all of that. I've definitely used him a lot to find my way."
Moser might also have as much perspective as anyone in determining how much good a move back to the perimeter will do Stanback.
"He's making plays for guys, making plays for himself — As good of a shooter as he is, I think the best part of his game is he's unselfish and he can create shots for other people," he said. "Being at the (small forward spot) now, I think it's such a better fit for him."
Expect several lineups on Tuesday
Expect junior Oscar Bellfield and sophomore Anthony Marshall to draw the starts on Tuesday night in the back-court, while the other three spots will remain pretty fluid between senior guard Derrick Jasper, junior forward Chace Stanback, sophomore forward Quintrell Thomas and junior forward Brice Massamba.
Marshall will be starting in place of senior guard Tre'Von Willis, who is serving at least a 3-game suspension following his off-season legal matters. That punishment includes the two exhibition contests.
Also expect to see true freshman Karam Mashour, who is still a likely redshirt candidate this season. Even if he redshirts, Mashour is eligible to play in the exhibitions.
Notes on Grand Canyon University
— The Antelopes come to town off of a 16-16 season in 2009-10, which was their first under coach Russ Pennell. Pennell, as you may recall, was the interim coach at Arizona amidst the Lute Olsen mess in 2008-09, leading the Wildcats to a Sweet Sixteen appearance.
— Grand Canyon returns four of five starters from a year ago, led by 6-foot-6 sophomore guard Brad Carroll, who averaged 9 points per game as a freshman. Carroll, a Chandler, Ariz., native, transferred closer to home from UW-Milwaukee. Junior Nick Witherill, a Washington State transfer, averaged 8.5 ppg last season.
— Oddest note of the day: Grand Canyon actually holds a 3-2 all-time record over UNLV. However, it should also be pointed out that the two have not met since 1963.
UNLV teams with Bear's Best to salute the military
On Monday, UNLV and Bear's Best Las Vegas general manager Jim Stanfill announced a partnership to salute active and inactive military personnel in November and December.
Over that time, active and inactive military personnel who show their UNLV basketball or football game ticket along with a military ID receive a free round at the course.
Tee times can be booked by calling (702) 804-8500.