Following one of the more disappointing UNLV seasons in recent memory, it appears that head coach Dave Rice and his staff will be working with an almost entirely new group of players in the 2014-2015 season. Smith, a 6-foot point guard who began his career at Mississippi State, would've been the Rebel's top returning scorer after a season in which he averaged 9.7 points and 2.7 assists.
"Deville has informed me that he has decided to leave the program," coach Dave Rice said. "He's weighing his options, and we plan to meet next week."
With Smith's departure, all five starters from last season's UNLV team are gone. Forwards Khem Birch and Roscoe Smith left early to declare for the NBA draft, while guard Bryce Dejean-Jones recently announced that he will be transferring to Iowa State for his senior season. 6-2 guard Kevin Olekaibe also played his final game as a Runnin' Rebel after transferring from Fresno State for his senior season.
Jelan Kendrick is currently the team's leading returning scorer, after averaging 6.3 points for the Runnin' Rebels last season. Sophomore forward Christian Wood, who saw an increased role as the season progressed will be returning next season along with guards Kendall Smith and Daquan Cook.
These four combined for just 25 starts and averaged 16.4 points per game. But it's primarily the incoming eight person recruiting class that Dave Rice, his coaching staff and the UNLV faithful will be counting on in 2014-2015.
UNLV's recruiting class ranks among the nation's top five and includes Top 25 prep recruits Rashad Vaughn, Dwayne Morgan and Goodluck Okonoboh, along with San Francisco transfer and point guard Cody Doolin. Other notable transfers include Jerome Seagears of Rutgers and Ben Carter of Oregon. Late signees Pat McCaw and Jordan Cornish will be joining the program as well.
A lot of UNLV's early season struggles last year were due in part by the team's lack of chemistry and overall togetherness. While the talent coming in this year is considerably better than the previous, you can't get by on talent alone. Dave Rice needs to bring these young men together as a collective unit if they want to achieve success this season. If he fails to do so, they might miss out on a golden opportunity.