Tourney Treats: NCAA champ stays behind as Rebels prepare for tournament

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV forwards Khem Birch, left, and Roscoe Smith joke around on the bench during their exhibition game against Dixie State Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012 at the Thomas & Mack. UNLV won in overtime 81-80.

UNLV 2013 NCAA Tournament Practice

The UNLV basketball team has their photo taken by UNLV photographer R. Marsh Starks before practice for their second round NCAA Tournament game against Cal Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

Rebels get a rematch in NCAA Tournament

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The brackets are out and the Las Vegas Sun sports team is here to discuss UNLV's draw as the 5-seed in San Jose, Calif., and a rematch with Cal.

Roscoe Smith is the last player in the gym.

Not in the typical show-up-early-and-stay-late way you usually hear about with athletes, though the UNLV sophomore does plenty of that, too. Sitting out this season because of transfer rules, Smith has little else to look forward to on the basketball court than practices and he’s one of many Rebels who can be found getting up shots after the coaches dismiss the team.

On Tuesday, though, Smith’s lingering is purely a practical matter. His teammates have left the main gym in the Mendenhall Center because they have a place they need to be, specifically a bus and then a plane that would take them to the NCAA Tournament in San Jose.

Smith isn’t going. One of three redshirts on the team, he’s the only one who’s not allowed to make the trip, per NCAA rules. Freshmen Demetris Morant and Charles Rushman are both redshirts by decision, and since they could enter the game and burn their redshirt year if necessary they’re allowed to travel.

Not Smith, though. He must stay behind, where on Thursday at 4:27 p.m. he’ll stake out his favorite spot and watch No. 5 UNLV play No. 12 Cal for the second time this season.

“I got used to it,” Smith said of watching his team leave without him.

Smith goes to the basement in Mendenhall, strolls down one hall to the communal space just outside the team’s study hall and film room and plops down on a couch facing four flat screens propped up together on one wall.

It’s there that he’s watched the majority of UNLV’s road games this season and there he will watch this next one, which is possibly the last one.

Smith knows all about the NCAA Tournament. As a freshman at UConn he was part of the team with Kemba Walker that won four games in four days in the Big East tournament and then went on to win the NCAA championship, too.

“Cutting down the net,” Smith said, “that was the top of the mountain right there.”

Smith has a piece of the net plus his championship ring displayed in his room now in Las Vegas. He has showed it to his teammates as he has tried to explain the lessons he learned during that run that could help the team while he’s still unable to do more than practice.

“‘This is what we’re playing for,’” he told them. “‘All the blood, sweat and tears, just for this ring right here.’”

Smith likes his vantage point in the basement because right before the games, or right after, he’s only seconds away from the weight room or the gym. It’s especially advantageous for the NCAA Tournament because he can have the Rebels on one screen while watching other games on the other three TVs.

“I’m a player but I’m also a fan of the game,” Smith said. “I just love to watch it.”

With the exception of practice, watching is all Smith has been able to do this season. And when the team is on the road that role can be especially difficult because he can’t talk to guys on the bench and, more importantly, he said, Smith doesn’t have his new support system around.

So Smith’s wisdom has to travel with the team even though he can’t, and everybody has to hope that that will be enough to make a difference. Next year he can and will do more.

For now, though, he’ll take his spot on the couch and watch like the rest of us.

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

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  1. It will be interesting to see what he brings to the table next season. I think the fact that Roscoe Smith's teammates voted him a team captain even though he can't play this season says a lot about him.