UNLV basketball:

Notebook: Olekaibe all clear to make his debut as other Rebels rest

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Steve Marcus

Bryce Dejean-Jones drives by Kevin Olekaibe during the first UNLV basketball practice of the season at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center Monday, Oct. 7, 2013.

Senior guard Kevin Olekaibe will make his UNLV debut in the starting lineup tonight after the Mountain West granted him relief from its intra-conference transfer rule this afternoon. The Rebels host Adams State at 7 p.m. in their final exhibition game.

On Monday, the NCAA granted Olekaibe a hardship waiver to become eligible immediately after transferring to the Rebels from Fresno State. Because the move was within the Mountain West, which would normally require a student-athlete to sit out two seasons, the league also had to sign off.

It did that today and Olekaibe is clear to play his final collegiate season this year. Olekaibe, a Cimarron-Memorial High grad, transferred back to Las Vegas to be closer to his family and look after his father, who is in local hospice care.

UNLV coach Dave Rice said he was happy that Olekaibe’s family got some positive news.

“We also would like to thank Fresno State Athletics and Coach Rodney Terry for their support of Kevin and his family through this process,” Rice said in a statement. “In addition, we are grateful to Eric Toliver, our associate athletics director for compliance, for his hard work on this waiver.”

Because of an injury to junior guard Bryce Dejean-Jones, Olekaibe will slide right into the starting shooting guard spot. As a sophomore at Fresno State, Olekaibe averaged more than 17 points per game.

Joining him in the starting lineup will be Deville Smith, Jelan Kendrick, Roscoe Smith and Carlos Lopez-Sosa.

• Speaking of Dejean-Jones, there’s still no timetable for his return but it seems like that may be sooner than later. Dejean-Jones watched the first part of Monday’s practice from the sidelines in practice gear. Then he and junior Khem Birch, who will also sit out tonight’s game because of an ankle and toe injuries, went to the Mendenhall Center with team trainer Dave Tomchek.

Rice said Dejean-Jones was feeling a little better and wouldn’t rule him out for Friday’s regular-season opener. However, it’s more likely that the Rebels would wait another week or two.

“We want to make sure that when Bryce comes back he’s fully healed,” Rice said. “because we don’t want to be dealing with this in December and January.”

Birch twisted his left ankle and suffered a slight case of turf toe — a hyperextension of the big toe — in Friday’s loss to Dixie State. He’s expected to play Friday and will sport a pair of high-top basketball shoes. Last Friday, Birch was wearing low tops, which made his ankle more susceptible to a sprain.

Freshman guard Kendall Smith, who missed the Dixie State game with a sprained ankle, will make his debut tonight.

• Whatever minutes freshman guard Dantley Walker plays tonight will likely be the last of his season. Rice said Monday that he would meet with Walker after the game to discuss using a redshirt this year.

Rice said he’ll never force a player to take a redshirt but as long as Walker was open to it, that’s the way the Rebels would go. The move is hardly a surprise.

Player coming off of two-year LDS missions often need extra time to get back into shape, and Walker has been aware of that. Even back in May, while he was serving the end of his mission, Walker told the Sun via email that he would do whatever the team asked of him.

“If a redshirt is what I need,” Walker said, “then that'll be what I'll do.”

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

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