Monday, June 10, 2013 | 6:30 p.m.
Former Cimarron-Memorial High basketball standout Kevin Olekaibe is enrolled in summer school classes at UNLV. All things considered, he wouldn’t mind still being at Fresno State.
Olekaibe (pronounced O-LAY-key-bay) left Fresno State after three seasons in April because his ailing father was transferred to a Las Vegas hospice. His father is paralyzed from the waist down and unable to speak — the result of two strokes.
“I don’t remember the last words he said to me,” Olekaibe said. “His left side in unresponsive. He doesn’t speak. He always told me family comes first, so coming home was an easy decision.”
Olekaibe, a 6-foot-2 guard and one of Fresno State’s top players, hopes to join the UNLV program for the upcoming season. He says UNLV will submit a hardship waiver to the NCAA so he can be immediately eligible. Players who transfer within conference must sit out two years; transfers out of conference sit out one year.
Olekaibe, who is walking on and won’t take the Rebels’ remaining scholarship, still has his redshirt year available. If the NCAA denies his waiver, his college career would be over.
And that’s just fine.
One of seven children from a close-knit family, his primary concern is being with loved ones. He joins his mother almost daily for visits with his father in the hospice.
“Even if it doesn’t work out, I still will be satisfied (with my decision) because I did what’s best for my mother and father,” he said.
He averaged 8.3 points and 25.6 minutes per game last season for Fresno State, posting 13 points and eight assists when the Bulldogs upset UNLV last March at the Thomas & Mack Center. He had 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting in February when Fresno State beat UNLV, the first of two victories against UNLV for the last-place Bulldogs.
The victory at UNLV was one of his top college moments. And not because it was a signature win for the program.
“It gave my family something to smile about, even it is was just for one night,” he said.
It was unlike most times he would talk with his mother, when he felt helpless because he was in California when she needed him by her side in a Las Vegas hospital room.
“It was the absolutely painful hearing my mom cry over the phone when I was in Fresno,” he said.
He was one of Fresno State’s key players as a sophomore, averaging 17.8 points in playing 36.5 minutes per game.
He averaged a state-best 35.6 points per game in 2009-10 at Cimarron, shooting 50-percent from the field in scoring more than 40 points nine times. He also averaged 6.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 3.6 steals per game to earn all-state honors. He was a two-time all-Sunset Region selection, scoring 22.3 points and grabbing 5.5 assists per game as a high school junior.
He could potentially take the place of Katin Reinhardt in the UNLV backcourt. Reinhardt recently transferred to USC.
“Coach Rice welcomed me. I’m honored to be a Rebel,” he said.