UNLV basketball:

Notebook: Inside Birch’s decision-making process and schedule update


Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV forward Khem Birch heads off the court after their Mountain West Conference semifinal game Friday, March 14, 2014 at the Thomas & Mack Center. The #8 ranked San Diego State Aztecs won 59-51 to advance to the finals.

Khem Birch is awaiting the feedback from NBA general managers and scouts that will help him make a decision whether to stay at UNLV for his final season or enter the NBA Draft.

UNLV coach Dave Rice said that on behalf of Birch he submitted an evaluation application to the NBA’s Undergraduate Advisory Committee. The committee gathers information from an assortment of NBA personnel with the goal of giving the collegiate player a good idea of when, or if, he’s likely to be selected in this year’s draft.

Rice has submitted the paperwork and the NBA must respond with its results by April 14. The NBA rep will call Rice, Birch and anyone Birch designates, like family or close friends, with the results and field any further questions they have. This is the same process UNLV went through to get information for Mike Moser following his sophomore season.

There are a lot of different deadlines established by the NCAA and NBA, which makes this process more confusing than necessary, but the most important one for Birch is April 27. That’s the NBA’s deadline for early draft entrants.

April 15, which is one day before the spring signing period, is the NCAA’s deadline for underclassmen to withdraw their name from the draft pool. That won’t apply to Birch because unlike fellow junior forward Roscoe Smith, Birch hasn’t entered his name in the first place.

And really there’s no reason for him or any other players on the fence with this decision to do so. Putting your name in when there’s a chance you’ll remove it only adds another deadline to the mix.

So Birch has another two and a half weeks to decide what he wants to do. And while he probably won’t take until the final day, Birch is certainly going to wait until he receives his evaluation and hears where current GMs and scouts project him to go.

Schedule coming together

UNLV’s nonconference schedule isn’t yet complete — Rice said it should be done in a month or so — but a lot of the games are already on the calendar. And unlike the 2013-14 season, when UNLV lacked for good nonconference competition, this slate could potentially be loaded.

A lot of that depends on how the opponents perform and, in a couple of cases, who the Rebels actually end up playing in their event, but it’s clear the program will start with a much better position to get good RPI and strength of schedule numbers.

Below are, in order, the games Rice shared:

• Nov. 21-22 — Coaches vs. Cancer at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. The rest of the field includes Duke, Stanford and Temple

We already knew about this one and Rice said he doesn’t yet know for certain who the Rebels will play first. However, the general consensus is that Duke grad Johnny Dawkins doesn’t want his Stanford team to play the Blue Devils until a possible championship meeting, which would leave the Rebels with their first game against Duke since the 1991 Final Four.

• Dec. 3 — At Arizona State

This is the return game after UNLV hosted the Sun Devils at the Thomas & Mack Center last fall. The good news: sophomore guard Jahii Carson, who poured 40 points on the Rebels, has declared for the NBA Draft.

• Dec. 20 — MGM Grand Showcase

Last year’s doubleheader featured New Mexico vs. Marquette and Colorado vs. Oklahoma State. Rice said he didn’t yet know whom the Rebels would play, but that they’re definitely in the field and former coach Lon Kruger’s Oklahoma Sooners may be in the other game. The event benefits Coaches vs. Cancer.

• Dec. 23 — Arizona in the Mack

It’s unclear exactly what the Wildcats’ roster will look in the upcoming season, but no matter what, this is unquestionably UNLV’s premier home game.

• Jan. 4/5 — At Kansas

The Rebels will try to give the Mountain West a second straight victory in the building almost no visitor leaves victorious: Allen Fieldhouse.

New coaching position still a priority

The Rebels are going through the process of hiring a new assistant coach to replace Heath Schroyer. Sources said Auburn assistant Ryan Miller, who recruited players like Alex Kirk and Hugh Greenwood to New Mexico, is expected to be the guy.

However, Rice wouldn’t discuss specific candidates. He did say that plans are still moving forward to add a special assistant position that would likely be someone with previous head coaching experience.

“That’s an important position for us to have on our staff,” Rice said.

It’s become rather common for college coaches, especially younger ones, to bring in a veteran voice to the staff. Rice said the new position’s salary would be fundraised outside of the university.

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

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