RENO - During the 1990s, Sacramento State was the proverbial laughingstock of college basketball.
The Hornets, who are members of the Big Sky Conference, won just 48 games in the span, including 1-win seasons in 1993-94 under Don Newman and 1997-98 under former North Carolina State assistant Tom Abatemarco.
Jerome Jenkins, a boyhood friend of Nevada assistant coach David Carter, is starting his sxith season at Sacramento State, and he appears to have the Hornets headed in a positive direction. He already has 52 wins, which isn't too shabby when you consider the records of the three coaches in the 90s.
The Hornets (1-1) will get a big test tonight (7:05 p.m.) when they face 22nd-ranked Nevada at Lawlor Events Center in the home opener for the Pack.
"I'd like to think so," Jenkins said in a telephone conversation earlier this week from the Guardians Classic in Austin, Texas where the Hornets split two games. "Every year recruiting has gotten better. More players are considering Sac State.
"Nevada is a tough challenge for us. I know they are very long and very athletic. I know (Mo) Charlo played at DVC where I used to coach. He's athletic and we have to keep him off the boards. (Nick) Fazekas is a great All-American. I was impressed with (Ramon) Sessions last year. I know coach Carter and the staff got on him a little bit. I told David to remember he was just a freshman. He's really, really good."
Sessions didn't play in the second exhibition win over Humboldt State after re-aggravating a hip injury. Nevada head coach Mark Fox expects him to be ready to go tonight.
Fox is anxious for the real games to start. He admitted that he didn't know a lot about the Hornets, however.
"We're excited about it (tonight's game)," Fox said. "They have improved their program every year (since Jenkins came aboard)."
The Hornets were 8-6 last year in conference, and have been picked anywhere from first to third in preseason publications. SSU finished 12-16 last year, but finished strong by winning seven of its last 10.
The Hornets have a talented point guard in DaShawn Freeman, who averaged 10 points and 4 assists per game. Jason Harris was the Big Sky's top newcomer last year after averaging 17.5 per game. Power forward Alex Bausley averaged 10.4 last year, scoring in double figures 17 times in 28 games, 25 of those were starts.
Fox admitted there are still plenty of questions to be answered about his own team. He said only two starting spots are locked up, but he wouldn't say which ones those are. He also said he's nowhere close to deciding on a rotation.
"We're not where we need to be," Fox said. "We have a long ways to go to be the team I think we can be. We're not playing like a ranked team.
"We still have to find a first five. We can't worry about sixth, seventh and eighth players until we get the first five."
Nevada has looked ragged at times during the the two exhibiton games, but much of that can be attributed to his substitution patten more than anything else.
Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (775) 881-1281