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UNLV Basketball: Ex-Bruin Stanback primed for breakthrough season

UNLV forward Chace Stanback appears poised for a big junior season.
UNLV forward Chace Stanback appears poised for a big junior season.
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Though Ben Howland might not have regretted it at the time, chances are he does now.

In April of 2008, on the heels of UCLA's third consecutive Final Four appearance, Chace Stanback, a little used forward who had found himself lost in the shuffle amidst a loaded Bruins roster, announced he would be transferring to another program after just one season in Westwood.

Losing Stanback, who had played less than six minutes a game for a Bruins team that featured future NBA stars Kevin Love, Darren Collison, and Russell Westbrook, hardly could have felt like a crushing blow at the time for Howland.

After all, not only were the Bruins bringing back veteran starters in Westbrook and Josh Shipp, Howland was also in the process of putting together, arguably, the nation's best recruiting class, headed by another future NBA first rounder, Jrue Holiday.

Meanwhile Stanback, thanks in large part to some effective recruiting by former AAU teammate Tre'von Willis, as well as his ex-Fairfax high school running mate Matt Shaw, found a new home at UNLV as a member of the Runnin' Rebels.

While Stanback sat out the 2008-09 season due to NCAA transfer rules, UCLA, as expected, made a return visit to the NCAA Tournament. Unlike the previous three seasons, however, the Bruins fell short of the Final Four this time, bowing out in the second round to Villanova 89-69.

The following season, after a slow start that saw him go eight games before finally registering his first double figure scoring effort, Stanback ultimately emerged as one of the Rebels best and most reliable players, averaging 10.7 points per contest -- good for second on the team -- while leading UNLV in rebounding, blocked shots, and steals.

Stanback, who started in 33 of UNLV's 34 games a season ago, was named a third team all-Mountain West Conference performer, helping lead the Rebels to a 25-9 record, and an NCAA Tournament appearance.

UCLA, on the other hand -- after Holiday declared for the NBA Draft after just one season, and the remainder of its vaunted 2008 recruiting class failed to live up to expectations -- suffered through their worst season since Howland's first year as the Bruins head coach, going just 14-18.

Fast forward to the 2010-11 campaign. The Bruins, 3-0 on the young season after defeating Pacific 57-44 in the NIT Season Tip-Off on Tuesday night, will almost certainly improve upon last season's unexpected bump in the road.

UCLA has a young and talented roster led by sophomore forwards Reeves Nelson and Tyler Honeycutt, junior guard Malcolm Lee, and freshman big man Josh Smith.

You've got to think, though, that Howland --whether he suggested at the time that Stanback look elsewhere for more playing time, or simply didn't do enough to persuade the then 19-year old freshman to stay -- would absolutely love to have a do over when it comes to Stanback, who would have been the lone senior on UCLA's roster had he stuck around.

Though a handful of questions may still remain surrounding Stanback's departure, one thing is absolutely certain -- UNLV coach Lon Kruger is thrilled to have him.

Stanback, who scored 17 points in UNLV's opening night rout of UC Riverside last Friday, appears to be on the verge of a breakout season for the Runnin' Rebels.

In fact, so impressive was Stanback in UNLV's final exhibition contest, Washburn coach Bob Chipman -- whose team had previously played top ten teams Kansas and Kansas State -- claimed that he hadn't seen a better player up to that point.

"Stanback looked like the best player I've seen this year, so far," Chipman said after watching the junior forward scorch the Ichabods for 23-points on 9 of 10 shooting in just 13 minutes of action. "He was scoring from everywhere -- the post, off the dribble, turn-around, three-ball. That was a clinic."

"Chace is an outstanding young man and we appreciate what he did for this program," Howland said some two and a half years ago following Stanback's departure. "We are supportive of him and his future in whatever direction he decides to go."

Chances are Howland now wishes that direction was a U-turn back to Westwood.


  • RebelFan-80 4 years ago

    Great article Will. Stanback looks like a machine right now and his outside jumper is money. He is capable of getting 30 on any night.

  • Will Douglas 4 years ago

    Thanks for the comment, Rebelfan-80. Stanback, from 18-feet and in, is so locked in it's almost funny. I was sitting next to maybe the only Riverside fan in attendance last Friday, and he would jokingly say "that's good" everytime Chace touched the ball.

    After the Washburn game, when the players and coached shook hands, Bob Chipman, Washburn's coach, gave Chace a Wayne's World, "we're not worthy" salute. Funny stuff.

  • reb4life777 4 years ago

    I love Chace and what he brings to the team, I know all rebel fans are happy he is here not at UCLA. He has such a pure , clean quick shot its not even fair to the opponents. Several times this year he has done a quick jab step to the side and shoot were the defender is falling on himself and he raises and hits nothing but bottom. Not only has his range and shoot got better but the ways he can get it off under control has as well. Good luck Chace

    GO REBS!!!

  • tom 4 years ago

    I'm a UCLA fan, and I harbor no ill will towards Chace, but unless you ask Howland himself, I just think that Chace wasn't patient enough to wait to play, which is really nobody's fault. If he had been patient, he'd been starting on UCLA the past season and this season... which is his same situation at UNLV. Either way, it's would've been a positive for Chace, but I don't think you can blame Howland for having a loaded team and not being able to give a freshmen who didn't look that great in pre-season (I watched him) playing time. Chace is good, but he certainly did not have freshmen starting skills like a Kevin Love or Jrue Holiday. Anyway, it all worked out, and I'm happy for a kid who's getting to play and show his skills.

  • Profile picture of Will Douglas
    Will Douglas 4 years ago

    Thanks for the reply Tom. And please understand that I'm certainly not saying that Howland drove Chace out of there or even suggested that he consider looking elsewhere. The basis of the column, simply, is that Howland probably wishes, in retrospect, that Chace had stayed.

    Given that UCLA was still so loaded, they were coming off Final Four #3, AND their '08 recruiting class appeared to be off the charts good, it was probably easier for Coach Howland, at the time, to let Chace go.

    It purely speculation, of course, but I'd imagine that Howland -- if he DID, in fact, want Chace to remain patient and stay -- wishes he would have done just a bit more to convince him to remain at UCLA.

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