A knee injury sidelined Matt Shaw two years ago, but it was a physical setback he was able to overcome. A more costly mental error has brought a sudden end to his UNLV basketball career.
Shaw failed a random drug test at the NCAA Tournament on March 18, and a one-year suspension will make him ineligible for what would have been his senior year.
UNLV officials confirmed Shaw’s suspension Tuesday, and the 6-foot-8-inch forward issued a statement admitting to his mistake.
“I tested positive for a NCAA banned substance, and it will cost me my senior season,” Shaw said. “I made a poor decision, but I take responsibility for it. I apologize to my teammates, my coaches and the fans.”
According to sources, Shaw tested positive for marijuana. He was one of four Rebels players randomly selected for NCAA-mandated drug tests after UNLV’s 69-66 first-round loss to Northern Iowa at Oklahoma City.
Shaw shot 5-for-6, made two 3-pointers and led the Rebels with 14 points against Northern Iowa. That game was the 86th and last of his career. He was expected to return as a leader in next season’s senior class with Tre’Von Willis, Derrick Jasper and Kendall Wallace.
“We are really disappointed for Matt,” coach Lon Kruger said. “He was going to be an integral part of our team next season. His teammates are disappointed as well, but they also understand that he has to take responsibility for his actions.”
Shaw averaged 7.0 points, fourth on the team, and started 11 of 30 games as UNLV finished the season 25-9. He hit a team-high 45 percent of his 3-pointers.
Shaw was forced to use his redshirt season in 2008-09 because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He started seven games, played in all 35 and averaged 6.9 points and 4.0 rebounds during the 2007-08 season as the Rebels (27-8) reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
UNLV senior associate athletic director Jerry Koloskie said all athletes go through a “comprehensive educational process” about illegal and performance-enhancing drugs and most are subjected to random school-administered tests each year.
“We spend a lot of time educating the student-athletes,” Koloskie said. “It’s a disappointment more than anything when a student-athlete tests positive because they certainly have the knowledge and education to avoid these types of behavior.
“What we’re here to do is try to help the student-athletes. But for the action, there has to be consequences.”
Koloskie developed the policy and procedure for UNLV’s drug-testing program, which he implemented in 1984. He also served as the chair of the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards from 2006 to 2008.
Koloskie said it “could be a coincidence” that Shaw was randomly selected for the NCAA’s test after the Northern Iowa game and it probably had nothing to do with him being the Rebels’ leading scorer.
Shaw, from Fairfax High School in Los Angeles, said he plans to earn his undergraduate degree this summer.
“I hope the fans will remember me for what I tried to give to this program,” he said, “and accept my apology.”
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907.