Lady Rebels becoming reality stars

There is no greater reality on television than the events that transpire during athletic competition. Heroism and adversity are constant story lines as the participants strive for success.

The UNLV women’s basketball team is giving an even more revealing look at life on and off the court through Season Pass, a reality TV show on the MountainWest Sports Network (a.k.a. The Mtn.) that premieres at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 30.

Over the course of seven 30-minute episodes, concluding March 31, the series will chart the progress of the Lady Rebels from preseason camp through what they hope will be an NCAA Tournament berth.

The Mtn. aired a similar show on the Colorado State men’s basketball team the last two seasons, and is doing so again this year, leading UNLV associate head coach Caitlin Collier to contact the network about doing a program on the Lady Rebels. Head coach Kathy Olivier, in her third season at UNLV, views the reality show as a great way to market her program.

“I think the other coaches are a little jealous,” she says. “They want to do it because it’s a great way to get your program out there and to get good publicity. … And I’ve been [coaching] for a long time, so I don’t have anything to hide.”

For the players, the experience has been both exciting and unnerving. The Mtn. recently followed sophomore guard Mia Bell, a 2009 Durango High School graduate, on an off day as she had dinner with her brother.

“At first I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do or what they were doing, but once they started filming it was like they weren’t even there,” Bell says. “Everyone was kind of concerned, like ‘Are they going to come into the locker room? Are they always going to be around?’ But they’re really good about giving us our space.”

One intriguing off-camera story line surrounds senior guard Erica Helms, who gave birth on Sept. 22 to a daughter, Tremiyah, fathered by UNLV men’s basketball player Tre’Von Willis. Helms, a third-team All-MWC selection last season, has had to play her way back into basketball shape following her pregnancy. And while she doesn’t necessarily want her daughter on camera for Season Pass, she hasn’t shied away from the topic.

“I didn’t ask them not to, just because I’m not ashamed of it,” Helms says. “I actually just got interviewed yesterday on camera, and they asked me [about the pregnancy].”

Olivier says Helms’ situation is just an example of the off-court issues that will be addressed during the reality show.

“It’s women’s sports,” she says. “It happens.”

Season Pass will be the first reality show to focus solely on a women’s athletic team.

“This is something that is unique,” producer Alysen Hargrove says. “It’s something that nobody’s really seen in female sports.”

Following last season’s 13-18 record, Olivier used the show as a way to motivate her team, which is off to a 5-6 start.

“We said to the players, ‘This is a great opportunity for our program. We want expectations. The reality is you better come back in shape because there’s going to be a camera right there,’” she says.

And the players are starting to get more comfortable with the camera tracing their every move on the court.

“I think everybody is used to it now,” Bell says. “We don’t even recognize that they’re filming. We just try and go out there and practice hard.”

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