RENO - The difference in Kyle Shiloh jumps out at you. You can see it on his face and you see it in his actions.
No longer does he play tentative; like he's afraid to make a mistake. He's playing looser and with a lot more confidence, and it's evident to first-year Nevada men's basketball head coach Mark Fox.
"He has more confidence this year," Fox said. "He's shooting the ball well. He had a nice off-season; worked very hard on his game. The most improved part of his game is his shooting. Kyle's improvement should be credited to his ability to sit down and evaluate.
"He said he needed to improve A, B and C, and that's what he did. He's our most experienced perimeter player, and we expect him to contribute a lot."
That's music to Shiloh's ears. He's adapted to his new role slowly, yet surely, according to Fox.
"It's a totally new experience," Shiloh said. "I'd never, ever played the two guard (shooting guard). I'd always played point guard. He (Coach Fox) told me kind of late. During the summer I assumed I was going to play point. They weren't sure about Lyndale Burleson (eligibility) and then they went ahead and picked up Ramon (Sessions).
"I'm definitely shooting the ball better. I'm definitely comfortable shooting the three ball. I know I can get it done from the outside, and I'll be looking to score a lot more. I'm still looking to get in the lane and then dish off to Nick (Fazekas) or Kevinn (Pinkney)."
Shiloh credited Fox and Garry Hill-Thomas, this year's graduate assistant, helping him progress over the summer. Shiloh spent so much time working on his game that he didn't go home during the summer.
The shooting aspect of Shiloh's game is critical. With the injury to Marcelus Kemp, Shiloh is the Wolf Pack's most experienced perimeter player. With Kemp gone and the late signing of freshman point guard Ramon Sessions, Shiloh is now playing more minutes at shooting guard than he is at the point, and he's slowly settling into that role.
Another reason for Shiloh's move to the shooting guard is that Fox didn't want either of his freshmen, Burleson or Sessions, to have to learn more than one position unless it was needed. It was an easier move for Shiloh, who already had a year's experience in the offense, and the coaching staff showed their confidence in him by giving him more responsibility.
"I knew he (coach Fox) had confidence in me," Shiloh said. "They had to bring it out of me."
The 6-3 sophomore from Bakersfield, Calif., who averaged 1.8 points a game last season in limited minutes last season, has scored seven points in each of the exhibition wins over Dominican University and Seattle Pacific, and even more importantly, he's only turned the ball over four times and dished out four assists per game while averaging around 27 minutes a game.
Against Seattle Pacific, Shiloh knocked down two three-pointers in the first half, helping Nevada to a 39-31 lead. He added four rebounds, a steal and three assists. He still has the mindset of a distributor and not a scorer right now.
Just to be playing this year is a big deal to Shiloh. After averaging around 14 minutes throughout the preseason and the first half of conference play last season, Shiloh all of a sudden became the forgotten man. He only played in one of Nevada's last nine games last year, as former head coach Trent Johnson shortened his rotation for Nevada's stretch run to a WAC championship. Instead of Shiloh filling in when starter Todd Okeson needed a breather, Johnson leaned more toward Kirk Snyder to play the point.
"I learned a lot from watching Todd," Shiloh said. "I learned how to set guys up (when on offense), running the offense and stuff like that. I can bring a little leadership and some experience. Sometimes I felt lost last year. Every coach in the country shortens his rotation (late in the season). I kind of expected it. It came down to experience."
"Part of Kyle's problem last year was that he was behind a great player (Todd Okeson)," the Wolf Pack first-year head coach said. "Todd was a great college player; perfect for the team we had.
"Kyle wasn't happy. I wouldn't want players on my team that are happy not playing."
Shiloh certainly isn't resting on his early season laurels, though. Mo Charlo is capable of playing shooting guard and so is Seth Taylor. That's more than enough incentive to continue working hard, and Shiloh knows that a strong work ethic at practice will help
keep his minutes up.
"If you don't practice well, you don't play well," Fox said. "I think there is a direct correlation between how you practice and how you play. If you don't practice well, you're not going to play."
After a year in the Wolf Pack system, Shiloh is well aware of that, and no doubt he'll stay focused on the task at hand with playing time at stake.
Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1281.