UNLV senior transfer Kevin Olekaibe faces a worst-case scenario for the upcoming season: redshirt the season and play next year.
“That’s never crossed my mind,” he said. “What’s crossed my mind is that I’m going to be ready to go, suited for the first game.”
With the season opener a couple weeks away, the Cimarron-Memorial graduate and the rest of the Rebels are still waiting for a decision on Olekaibe’s waiver request to the NCAA for the senior to play immediately after transferring from Fresno State to be closer to his ill father.
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“It’s always there in the back of mind,” he said. “I just have to continue work hard in practice as if I am cleared.”
That’s the way it appears the program is approaching the situation as well. Olekaibe is fully-involved in team practices, played in last week’s Scarlet & Gray Showcase and is a vocal presence with teammates.
“His basketball IQ is extremely high,” UNLV junior forward Roscoe Smith said.
Smith, who faced a similar situation after transferring from the University of Connecticut last season, is also one of Olekaibe’s roommates.
“I told him about my experience,” Smith said. “I just told him he’s got to keep smiling because at the end of the day, he’s always a part of the UNLV family.”
Smiles and Olekaibe seem to go hand and hand, whether it’s shooting at the buzzer in last week’s 3-point contest, throwing down a reverse-360 dunk that drew a semi-surprised reaction from the crowd at the Showcase, or simply laughing and hi-fiving teammates at practice.
“I’m just blessed to be here, be back here with my family,” Olekaibe said. “I’m blessed to be playing in practice everyday, so that’s what mostly matters to me.”
A decision from NCAA is expected in the next few days.
STORY AND VIDEO BY BARRY WONG