Academic support staff crucial to Rebels basketball success

We were pleased with the progress our team made during the nonconference season, and we understand the new challenges we face during conference play. Competing for a regular-season title always will be an important goal in our program.

This is a busy week for us, with two home conference games and the start of the spring semester. We are fortunate to have a great academic support system in place. David Jackson does a terrific job monitoring the academic progress of our players, and he works closely with our director of men’s basketball operations, Kreigh Warkentien. Also, our three assistant coaches — Justin Hutson, Stacey Augmon and Heath Schroyer — are assigned to various players and spend time every day on the academic development of our team.

Graduating our players is a huge priority. Our four seniors — Oscar Bellfield, Brice Massamba, Chace Stanback and Kendall Wallace — have made significant progress toward their degrees and are on pace to graduate at the end of this school year.

Juniors Quintrell Thomas and Justin Hawkins have put themselves in a position to graduate a year early. Quintrell used a redshirt year, so this is his fourth year of college, and he is scheduled to graduate at the end of the spring semester. Justin is only in his third year of college and can graduate with a degree in hotel management this summer. Next year, he will begin his master’s degree work.

We also have a great support staff. Rich Hilliard is our director of student-athlete development. He works extremely hard, and we have expanded his role. During the season, he spends countless hours breaking down film and providing our assistant coaches what they need to prepare scouting reports.

My executive assistant, Christin Downing, is extremely efficient and keeps our office running smoothly. We are fortunate to have her. In addition to working during the day, she has started her master’s degree in public administration by taking evening classes. Our administrative assistant, Alyssa Leavitt, also serves an important role in our office.

Dave Tomchek does an exceptional job as our athletic trainer and also excels with our travel responsibilities. He is qualified from a medical standpoint, but he is also a mentor for our players.

Rocky Rutledge is our equipment manager and is responsible for making sure our team looks good. He works tirelessly for the betterment of our program. Jason Kabo is a terrific strength coach. Our players respect his knowledge and commitment to their conditioning.

We are excited about the private dedication of the Mendenhall Center. We are so grateful for the generosity of our donors who made this wonderful project possible. It already has made a huge difference in our program and will continue to do so. We also are looking forward to being part of the Governor’s BBQ. We are appreciative that Gov. Brian Sandoval, with his busy schedule, was able to make this special event possible.

We know the challenges that are ahead in Mountain West Conference play and continue to appreciate the fantastic support of the Runnin’ Rebel fans.

UNLV basketball coach Dave Rice writes a weekly column for Rebels Report.

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