Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Monday, Aug. 29, 2011 | 2 a.m.
Last week, while his oldest son was visiting the family in Los Angeles, Harry Stanback noticed some changes.
Aside from an enhanced physical presence, Chace Stanback spoke in a different tone.
Plenty of work over the summer months spent in Las Vegas ultimately produced the new Chace Stanback look, but Harry knows that the new sound stemmed from one unfortunate night in early May.
That's when Chace was arrested on suspicion of DUI just a few blocks from UNLV's campus.
"You talk to your kids about staying out of trouble and the perils of everything that could happen to them, but when it actually happens to them and they have to go through some stuff, they can see it for themselves," Harry said. "He knew he had no business being in a jail cell next to guys who are probably going to end up back in there at some point.
"To me, that probably helped him more than it's ever going to hurt him. It brought everything home for him, I believe. He rededicated himself to what he was doing in the first place."
What Stanback had already accomplished in two seasons at UNLV following his transfer from UCLA was notable. In both 2009-10 and 2010-11, the 6-foot-8 forward was second on the team in scoring and led the Rebels in rebounding, earning third team All-Mountain West honors each year.
But there has always been room to grow.
Staring down his final season of college ball, Stanback made the decision to stay in Las Vegas for almost the entire summer. Each of his previous summers while at UNLV were spent predominately at home.
It was not so much a choice to stick around, but rather something he felt he had to do.
"Probably because I got that DUI, because ever since then, I've been trying to rebuild my image," Stanback said. "I do regret what I did in the past, but I can't change it. I can change my future."
With staying in town came some lifestyle changes. Stanback said he has mostly given up going out and enjoying the nightlife, opting for video games and movies instead, or the occasional low-key outing with teammates. He also said he felt it necessary to stay back, commit fully to basketball and change his ways since his arrest came roughly a month after Dave Rice was hired as UNLV's new men's basketball coach.
"It was tough because they didn't know me, and this was the only thing they had (at the time)," he said. "I didn't want to leave a bad impression, and I felt like if I left a bad impression as my first impression, it was going to take me a while to gain their trust back."
But the new staff already had a pretty good level of respect for Stanback. With Rice at BYU, associate head coach Justin Hutson at San Diego State and assistant Heath Schroyer at Wyoming last season, they had an idea of what he was capable of athletically. They also saw how he worked within the team concepts, playing the power forward spot and working mostly as a pick-and-pop threat on offense the last two seasons to best fit in Lon Kruger's guard-oriented system.
Still, Rice was put in a tough spot as a first time head coach, as questions immediately began to sprout up regarding how he would handle the punishment once the legal process played out.
Stanback's original court date was on Aug. 11, but it was reset to Dec. 1 due to a severe backlog of DUI test results, falling between a Nov. 30 game at UC Santa Barbara and a Dec. 4 trip to face Wichita State. Rather than taking a breathalyzer test at the scene, Stanback gave a blood sample. Chances are, the results will come in and a plea agreement will be reached before UNLV's season starts in early November. However, the question of how many games Stanback could miss is still unanswered.
"I think for me, it's difficult whether you're a first-year head coach or have coached for 20 years," Rice said. "Personally, I don't think this is about me. I know a lot's been made of the fact that that's the case, but reality is this is about our program, about Chace and what's right for our program and right for Chace, and all of our guys learning that there are consequences when we use bad judgment."
Stanback deserves plenty of credit, though, for not letting it result in an unproductive summer.
Fueled by a red-hot start and an equally strong finish to his junior season, he averaged 13 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. What tugged on Stanback, though, was the frustrating middle, which was at times painfully inconsistent.
He shot a streaky 36.2 percent from deep as a junior, then hit the gym this offseason with a strong focus placed on giving that number a bump. Also, Stanback had to prepare himself to play more on the perimeter as a small forward — his natural position — with the new uptempo style being implemented by Rice.
Much of the preparation for the latter meant diligently working as much as possible with strength and conditioning coach Jason Kabo.
Each of the last two summers, Stanback was sent to Los Angeles with an offseason program to follow. He certainly didn't ignore it, but clearly got better results from having Kabo push him in person and watch his diet from up close.
"When they're away, I don't know if they're in the gym or doing 100 percent of the workout," Kabo said. "If they're not in the weight room five days a week, they're hearing me on the phone. When they're in town, they're here a minimum of five days a week. That's what I demand from them, and he did a great job (this summer). He was here at least five days a week, doing all of the extra work."
As a result, Stanback is holding steady at 215 pounds, up from the 200 he checked in at to finish last season. Also, he's stronger and more explosive physically, having added 50 pounds to his max on the bench press, with all of his other lift maxes up a consistent 15-20 pounds.
It's helped him come out of a shell that no one ever really knew was around him.
"He walks like a big guy," Harry Stanback said with a laugh. "He talks different now about what he wants to do, how he wants to help lead this team — stuff he wasn't saying before.
"He has a different attitude about everything."
Though he's moving back to small forward, Rice thinks the added muscle and bounce in his step will only help make one of Stanback's biggest strengths even more of one — his defensive rebounding ability. Stanback has led UNLV in defensive caroms each of the last two seasons at 4.1 per game, and Rice sees that skill making him an ideal triggerman in getting the Rebels out and running more.
"(Opponents are) always concerned about his ability to score the ball, and I think the thing that gets lost sometimes is that he's a terrific rebounder," Rice said. "The plan going into the season is for him to play on the perimeter for us, play (small forward). The thing that's good is that he is also proven as a (power forward), he's been an all-league performer there. You never know how it works until you get into practice and games, but he's worked really hard to get himself ready to do that."
Added Stanback: "I'll be able to create for other players, my teammates can create for me, I can go off the dribble and get to the hole a lot more, have screens set for me instead of me setting screens. I'm pretty excited about that. It's been a while for me since I've come off of a ball screen."
When Stanback ultimately returns to the floor this season, there will still be more hurdles to clear. One, he knows, will be added hostility from crowds on the road, having seen up close last season how hard they were at times towards teammate Tre'Von Willis following his offseason legal issues.
But all of the work this summer, the confidence that's come as a result of it and a new role has helped Stanback cope with the likely, not-yet-quantified suspension that he'll have to own up to and take. That's pretty good for now.
"It was a huge transition for me because I've never gotten in any trouble like that before," he said. "It was all over the news, and was definitely some publicity that I didn't want. I regret the decision I made.
"I'm not trying to think about the negative. I'm just ready to move on."