UNLV basketball:

Roscoe Smith a picture of calm amid the uncertainty about his immediate eligibility

Smith likely won’t practice with the team or play in Canada and he may have to sit the year out, but he’s preaching patience

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Sam Morris

UNLV transfer Roscoe Smith, left, and Khem Birch sit on the sidelines during their open practice Saturday, August 4, 2012.

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Connecticut Huskies forward Roscoe Smith (22) looks to regain control of the ball with Villanova Wildcats forward/center Mouphtaou Yarou (13) looming behind him during the NCAA Basketball game between the Connecticut Huskies and the Villanova Wildcats on Feb. 20, 2012, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. Connecticut beat Villanova 73-70 in overtime.

Roscoe Smith isn’t in a hurry.

His moments in the public eye currently consist of sitting at the scorer’s table during UNLV’s practices for its upcoming trip to Canada, then taking shots after his teammates have vacated the floor. It looks like a frustrating position for a kid who already owns a national championship ring, but his easy smile suggests otherwise.

“I’m still having fun,” Smith said.

The Rebel with the most uncertain immediate future is OK with the fact that this season, this trip and even these practices are out of his hands. There’s nothing he can do about it, so why sweat it?

Let’s start with the 2012-13 season, one of the most anticipated in UNLV history. Smith still doesn’t know if he’ll be a part of it.

A 6-foot-8, 205-pound forward, Smith spent the first two years of his career at Connecticut. He started in the national championship game two years ago, a part of the Huskies’ miraculous run through the Big East and NCAA tournaments behind then-junior guard Kemba Walker.

But when UConn was hit with a postseason ban this year for a low Academic Progress Rate (APR), Smith joined a cluster of teammates who looked for a way out of Storrs.

Freshman Andre Drummond and sophomore Jeremy Lamb left for the NBA draft, something they probably would have done no matter what happened with the APR as both were lottery picks.

Two other players — senior-to-be Alex Oriakhi and junior-to-be Michael Bradley — transferred to other programs. Oriakhi landed at Missouri, where he’ll play immediately for what could be a Final Four contender.

“I’m definitely excited for Alex,” Smith said.

Bradley wasn’t so lucky. Oriakhi was granted a hardship because he only had one year of eligibility remaining and the NCAA ruled that not being able to play in the postseason is a valid reason to waive the traditional transfer rule of sitting out one year.

Bradley transferred to Western Kentucky, which is located near his hometown of Chattanooga, Tenn. In addition to leaving because of the postseason ban, Bradley’s grandmother in Chattanooga was reportedly diagnosed with cancer, and transferring closer to an ill relative is supposed to eliminate the requisite year on the bench.

However, his case was denied like nearly half of all the undergraduate transfer hardship waivers applied for in Division I college basketball. Instead of missing his third consecutive season — Bradley redshirted and then missed last year with an injury — he stopped taking classes at Western Kentucky and jumped to nearby Vincennes University, a junior-college power where he can play immediately. Bradley is in a hurry.

Oriakhi and Bradley know their immediate futures because the NCAA acted quickly. Smith is still sitting in the classroom with his long arm stuck up like a flag pole, waiting for an answer from the governing body.

Because of that delay he’s out of the Canada trip until further notice, and all indications are neither he nor sophomore transfer Khem Birch will be able to take part in any of the practices leading up to it. UNLV coach Dave Rice believed up until last Friday that both guys would practice, but now he and UNLV compliance director Eric Toliver are seeking an official ruling from the NCAA through the Mountain West office.

The bylaw regarding student-athlete participation in foreign trips — 17.28.1.4.1 through 17.28.1.4.1.1.1, in case you were interested — states players must complete at least three credit hours and be eligible “during the academic year immediately following the tour.” The exception to that rule regarding practice participation — pending grades — doesn’t apply in this case. However, Wyoming transfer Charles Hankerson Jr., who’s sitting out the 2012-13 season, reportedly practiced with the Cowboys ahead of their current trip to Canada, so there may be a little hope yet.

But that’s something for the fans and the coaching staff to fret over. Smith is too busy enjoying his life in Las Vegas.

Smith had a lot of options when he sought to transfer. The West Coast held a certain appeal of the unknown to the Baltimore native, and he was sold on the camaraderie. It also helped that there’s another Baltimorean on the roster — freshman guard DaQuan Cook.

“I talked to him a lot when he was thinking about coming,” Cook said. “… Having another guy from the same town makes it a lot easier for both of us.”

The coaching staff was another plus, though Smith admitted he had to do research to find out who Stacey Augmon is.

Ultimately, everything about the school and the team felt right.

“UNLV was a better opportunity to become a better person and a better basketball player,” Smith said.

And Smith doesn’t need to be eligible to get better. He’s been trying to do that all summer anyways.

Some in this situation would pout or question why a former teammate like Oriakhi gets to play while they may not. Smith shrugs his shoulders. Oriakhi’s situation is different, he says. Besides, this is simply a waiting game, and the man sitting at the scorer’s table isn’t in a rush.

“I can’t do anything about it,” Smith said. “Just continue to work hard, continue to work on my game, continue to cheer my teammates on and let them know I’m still there.

“Just be patient.”

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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  1. Like the attitude! Hang in there big man it will be worth your wait when showtime returns to the T&M!