Junior forward Roscoe Smith made an announcement Friday that was expected, saying he is not returning to UNLV next season. He intends to hire an agent and declare for the NBA Draft.
If Smith gets drafted, that would be the big surprise.
A similar announcement from junior forward Khem Birch could be coming soon, and Birch’s next move will have the biggest impact on the Rebels’ offseason.
Smith averaged 11.1 points and 10.9 rebounds in his only season of action for UNLV. He redshirted during the 2012-13 season after transferring from Connecticut.
“I am ready to take the next step in my career, but I love UNLV,” Smith said in a statement issued by the school. “I am planning to finish my classes this semester in addition to preparing for the draft.”
Smith could not be reached for further comment.
“We talked a few times since the season ended,” said coach Dave Rice, who is in the Dallas area attending the Final Four. “Roscoe told me his decision (Friday) and said he had been doing a lot of thinking. I’m excited for him.”
After finishing 20-13 and missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in Rice’s three years, the Rebels appeared headed for another turbulent offseason. So far, the scoreboard shows three departures and one head coach staying put.
A week ago, in a 24-hour drama played out in the national media, Rice rejected a contract offer from South Florida and received a two-year extension to remain at UNLV.
That was after he lost his top assistant, Heath Schroyer, who accepted the head coaching position at Tennessee-Martin.
Rice is searching for Schroyer’s replacement, and Ryan Miller has emerged as a leading candidate. Miller spent the past two seasons as an Auburn assistant to Tony Barbee, who was fired March 12.
Miller, regarded as one of the nation’s top recruiters, was on Steve Alford’s staff at New Mexico from 2007 to 2012. He also was a basketball operations assistant at Memphis under John Calipari, now the Kentucky coach, for two years.
Rice said he hopes to hire a special assistant to the head coach, a position in the process of being created.
It was announced March 16 that junior guard Bryce Dejean-Jones, the Rebels’ leading scorer, would not return. Dejean-Jones is on schedule to graduate this summer. Iowa State and Louisiana State are potential landing spots.
“Bryce is in school every day,” Rice said. “A lot of schools have called and asked for permission to contact him. There has been a lot of interest.”
The 6-foot-8-inch Smith, 10th in the nation this season with 16 double-doubles, is not considered a strong NBA prospect mostly because of his defensive weaknesses and limited offensive game. He should, however, find opportunities to play professionally somewhere.
A freshman starter on Connecticut’s 2011 national championship team, Smith played in 31 games and started 30 at UNLV. He suffered a concussion late in the season and missed two games.
Sometime in the week before the concussion diagnosis, Smith was punched in the head at least once during a fight with a UNLV football player.
Two of four UNLV juniors are gone, and the fates of Birch and Jelan Kendrick are yet to be determined. Kendrick is on schedule to graduate during the summer.
Birch, who averaged 11.5 points and 10.2 rebounds to go with 124 blocked shots this season, is in school and considered a potential second-round NBA pick.
Underclassmen who declare for the draft must withdraw by April 15 to remain eligible for NCAA competition. But any player who has not declared can turn pro before the NBA deadline of April 27.
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.