In the end, UNLV men’s basketball coach Dave Rice settled somewhere in the middle regarding star senior forward Chace Stanback and the punishment stemming from his May 13 DUI arrest.
More than four months later, the issue was finally put to bed Thursday.
Stanback, a 6-foot-8 Los Angeles native who is UNLV’s top returning scorer (13.0 ppg) and rebounder (5.9 rpg), pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of DUI-marijuana in Las Vegas Justice Court.
He was originally due back in court Dec. 1, right in the middle of the basketball season, but instead reached a plea agreement that came with a 30-day suspended sentence, a $585 fine and 40 hours of community service. He’ll return to court March 8 for a status check to see if the requirements of his sentence have been completed.
According to the UNLV student-athlete handbook, first-time offenders in matters such as Stanback’s are not subject to automatic suspension, but rather a treatment/education program and further random drug tests administered by the athletic department.
UNLV put out a news release roughly an hour after Stanback and attorney Steve Wolfson left the courthouse announcing that he would be suspended for the Rebels’ Nov. 1 exhibition game against Washburn and its regular-season opener Nov. 11 against Division II Grand Canyon. His first game back will be Nov. 14, when the Rebels host rival UNR.
Not too harsh, but not too soft.
“Part of it was Chace’s track record prior to the incident at UNLV, and also the equity he’d built up since the arrest,” the first-year coach said. “Still, it was a suspension that was warranted.
“I think it’s really important for this day to come prior to the season. Going into the season, we could know what we were looking at, and he’s a really important member of our team, we’re expecting big things from him. Had (his court date) stayed at Dec. 1, we would have dealt with it, but I think it’s important going into the season to have as few variables as we possibly can.”
Stanback met with the local media in the UNLV basketball offices Thursday afternoon, then not long after leaving, shed his shirt, tie and dress pants and replaced them with basketball shorts and a T-shirt. In every way possible, he looked like someone who was finally comfortable after four trying months.
“The important thing is that I’m moving on,” he said. “In the past, I’ve tried to lead by example, but obviously, my example from this summer wasn’t a great one. Hopefully, my teammates will learn from that.”
By several accounts, everything that Stanback has done this summer following the arrest has been positive, thus helping build up the “equity” that Rice spoke of. Having only been hired at UNLV a month before Stanback’s incident took place, Stanback was under the coach’s microscope the entire time.
In turn, Stanback, for the first time in his four years at UNLV, spent roughly the entire summer in Las Vegas. He became more of a homebody, made sure to live as mellow a lifestyle as possible and put extra focus into summer school and improving his body.
Stanback added 15 pounds from the end of last season and has been conditioning in preparation for Rice’s up-tempo playing style. He’ll be switching to his natural position — small forward — after playing power forward his first two seasons at UNLV following a transfer from UCLA.
The arrest came May 13 at 2:23 a.m. at the intersection of Colby Avenue and Swenson Street, just off the McCarran International Airport bypass and in the shadows of the Thomas & Mack Center. Stanback was just a few blocks from his off-campus residence near Swenson and Flamingo Road when he was pulled over for speeding and failed to provide proof of insurance.
He took a blood test administered by Metro Police, and because of a severe backup in the system, results were unknown until just a couple of weeks ago.
The test revealed no traces of alcohol in his system, only marijuana, which Stanback claimed Thursday he was not a frequent user of. No matter how seldom he may have used before, he vowed he no longer has or will during his time at UNLV. If any of his random tests in the next year come back positive, the result, according to UNLV’s handbook, is an automatic indefinite suspension.
“It really doesn’t matter, because that’s not going to happen again anyway,” he said. “I accepted (the punishment), I deserved it, and I’m just trying to move on.”
In a weird way, the whole mess turned into a positive for Stanback. On top of the aforementioned improvements, he said he became closer with his family and teammates while trying not to harp on it constantly over the past four months.
He’s also fortunate, in a way.
Former UNLV teammate and fellow Fairfax High alum Matt Shaw lost his senior season following a failed drug test at the 2010 NCAA Tournament, which turned up positive for marijuana. With the NCAA-administered test came a mandatory, no-exceptions punishment of a one-year suspension.
How Stanback’s college career ends will now be up to him.
“We had some words, definitely had a long conversation on the phone,” he said of his talks with Shaw. “He said just to make sure I learned from it. His mistake was his last mistake here.”