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UNLV equipment crews really clean up at Vegas Summer League

Updated July 11, 2019 - 6:47 pm

Devin James is almost always busy during the Vegas Summer League — the games and practices.

He doesn’t mind one bit.

“I love it,” said the 25-year-old graduate student, who helps launder the uniforms of the league’s 32 teams. “Right now, it’s not super hard work. It’s busy work … not like you’re constantly doing heavy lifting.”

Very little heavy lifting, actually. But lots of folding. Lots and lots of folding.

UNLV’s team of student equipment managers is stationed in the depths of Cox Pavilion — in a laundry room — where they wash towels, practice and game jerseys for teams throughout the 11-day spectacle.

The Summer League, which uses the Thomas &Mack Center and Cox Pavilion, began July 5 and ends with a title game Monday.

The crews report to Rebels head equipment manager Tausha Smith, who respectfully declined an interview request while deferring credit to the staff of students she oversees.

Two groups comprised of a dozen or so workers typically service the laundry room — one works the day shift and one the night shift — combining for 16 to 18 hours of laundry each day.

‘Oh, wow’

Dubious but manageable. Often enjoyable.

“It’s cool, just to see some of the celebrities that pop in,” said James, who normally works out of the Lied Athletic Complex. “You’re like ‘Oh, wow.’ ”

James, one of the leaders for the day shift, typically arrives at Cox Pavilion at around 7 a.m.

He’ll first stock the towel stations placed near the courts at both arenas and prep for his daily duties as the rest of his crew arrives, usually before 9 a.m.

Teams throughout the day submit their dirty gear to James and his fellow staffers, assigning a specific time frame — usually built around practices or games — by which they’ll need it back. The wash machines are connected to a 10-gallon detergent reservoir and process an average of 10 to 12 loads of laundry per day.

“Usually in the mornings, we’re flipping towels, usually from the night before,” he said. “Teams from earlier will drop off last-minute stuff. … Some teams will come to pick up.”

Perks of the game

James and his co-workers typically work — based on team needs — until about 5 p.m. or so before passing the proverbial baton to the night staff, which includes 25-year-old Wyatt Tomcheck.

Tomcheck also mans the Lied Athletic Complex with the Rebels football team during the day and often works until 1:30 a.m. during the Summer League.

Yes, it’s tiring, but the perks of the experience are generally worth the inevitable fatigue.

Plus, “it’s extra pay, on top of what we do,” Tomcheck said.

A flat screen television is mounted to the laundry room wall, and student equipment managers can either play video games — like NBA2K — or watch the games being played a few hundred feet away.

The detergent neutralizes the odor that typically accompanies perspiration-soaked linens, and the laundry room is a flower-fresh, hospitable location that NBA players and coaches occasionally pass through on their way to or from the courts.

James was excited to see another James over the weekend: LeBron James, who twice watched his Los Angeles Lakers’ summer outfit.

Tomcheck gets excited for something else.

“Toward the end of the night, you’re just watching the washer and dryer go around in a circle,” he said, “and you dream about going to bed.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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