Lady Rebels coach gets coveted player

Kathy Olivier was still UCLA’s basketball coach when she began recruiting Lenita Sanford, who was in eighth grade at the time.

Olivier now is UNLV’s coach, and on Wednesday she finally got her catch when Sanford signed to play for the Lady Rebels.

Sanford, a 6-foot-3-inch forward, was a top-10 recruit out of Lynwood (Calif.) High School in 2007 and a consensus All-American after averaging 20 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks. She is a junior college transfer.

“She was a superstar coming out of high school,” Olivier said. “Everyone wanted her. So if she … takes care of business, she’ll be a major, major player for us.”

Sanford took a roundabout route to UNLV. She first signed with California, but barely missed becoming academically eligible. Sanford then went to Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas, but tore her anterior cruciate ligament. After transferring to Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Fla., she averaged 7.7 points and 6.4 rebounds.

While at Chipola, she signed with Louisiana Tech but backed out because of a coaching change.

Sanford didn’t play last season, choosing to attend El Camino College in Torrance, Calif., to concentrate on academics.

The Lady Rebels return all five starters and their top eight scorers from a team that went 13-18 last season.

Sanford said she didn’t seriously consider signing with any school other than UNLV mostly because of her relationship with Olivier.

“She stuck with me the whole time, and I want to help the program and get to the (NCAA) tournament,” Sanford said. “I feel like I can help the team a lot.”

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at or 702-387-2914.

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