Redshirt to red numbers: UNLV's Bobbitt breaking through

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LAS VEGAS – Five days ago, the co-leader at the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters trudged into his coach’s office and announced that he wanted to redshirt this season. More than that, he wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.

After all, sophomore Redford Bobbitt hadn’t traveled with the team all year. Last year, in 14 rounds as UNLV’s No. 5 man, his best score was 75. He was ninth on the team in scoring average. His game showed no immediate signs of being good enough to crack the starting lineup, so he wanted to shut it down, quit, wait until the fall for another chance.

First, Bobbitt, 19, sat down with assistant coach Philip Rowe. Together they brokedown the decision, pros-and-cons list and all. Rowe left the meeting believing that he hadn’t done enough to change his player’s mind.

Two hours later, Bobbitt called head coach Dwaine Knight to solidify the plan.

Knight has seen it all during his 28-year, Hall of Fame coaching career – but especially the vagaries of the teenage mind.

So he told Bobbitt:

• The timing wasn’t right; most players take redshirts during their junior seasons, to ensure that they have two more years of eligibility.

• Bobbitt’s fifth year wasn’t guaranteed – a lot can happen, of course, between now and Fall 2017.

• And in 2006, a player named Matt Kinsinger was struggling mightily with his game, but Knight gave him a chance to play as an individual at Southern Highlands. He went out and won the event.

“The big message,” Rowe said Tuesday, “was don’t delay being a good player now. You’re a good player. Go take advantage of it.”

Later that night, Bobbitt sent Rowe a text: I’m playing. I’m in.

Though Bobbitt remained committed to the program, he remained irked by the knowledge that even if he wanted to redshirt he wasn’t promised a fifth year of eligibility.

“I knew that they believed in me,” he said, “but they wanted me to go earn it.”

During the practice round here, Rowe played the back nine with Bobbitt and sensed an edge to him. The next day, while playing as a non-counting individual in the No.1-ranked tournament in the country, Bobbitt shot a 7-under 65 to share the first-round lead.

A number of high-profile players signed their card, glanced at the leaderboard and wondered who the heck Redford Bobbitt was.

Hard to blame them.

Bobbitt said he even overheard a few players discussing what his over/under would be for Tuesday’s second round. The projections weren’t pretty.

“It was like, screw you guys,” Bobbitt said. “I’m going to show you it’s not a fluke.”

Even with a nervy start, Bobbitt held it together for a 71 on Day 2. At 8-under 136, he is tied with Alabama’s Robby Shelton, the reigning NCAA Freshman of the Year, heading into the last day.

Afterward, it was Bobbitt – the team’s No. 9 player – who spoke during the team meeting.

“That was a little breakthrough,” Rowe said. “Admitting that he was nervous, but having the strategies and a plan to work through it.”

The same team that Bobbitt wasn’t good enough to qualify for could have desperately used his help this week. The Rebels, who have won their home tournament seven of the past 10 years, are tied for ninth, 20 shots behind.

“Funny how that works out,” Bobbitt said with a smile.