As the Rebels took the court as a team for the first time (officially) at Monday’s practice, one prominent player was missing from the action.
Junior center Khem Birch was held out of practice as punishment for missing a weightlifting session earlier in the morning, according to coach Dave Rice.
Not exactly the way Rice—or Birch, surely—wanted to kick off the season.
“Khem overslept this morning and he missed weights,” Rice explained. “My feeling is that for us to get to the level that we have an opprotunity to get to, we all have to be on the same page, so I suspended Khem for the day. He and I will meet tomorrow and I suspect he’ll be at practice tomorrow.”
The timing couldn’t have been worse for Birch, who was also benched for a game against Nevada-Reno last year for missing a practice. The Rebels are attempting to set a new tone this season, and the coaching staff has been stressing accountability.
Birch spoke in the offseason about taking on more of a leadership role, so missing a weightlifting session and getting suspended for the first practice of the season obviously does not send a good message.
Rice felt he had to address the issue by holding Birch out.
“Especially for someone like Khem, who was the Defensive Player of the Year last year, I’m expecting leadership from him,” Rice said. “He let me and, more importantly, he let our team down today. He’s a great kid and a team guy, but we’ve all got to get on the same page.”
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