RENO - Kyle Shiloh doesn't say much. In fact, some say he's introverted and even moody at times.
Instead, he lets his defense do the talking, and that part of his game speaks volumes about his ability and toughness; what kind of basketball player he has been during his successful four-year career at Nevada.
Shiloh is the 11th-ranked Wolf Pack's defensive stopper, and arguably the best in the Western Athletic Conference. He is to Nevada what Champ Bailey is to the Denver Broncos.
Bailey is considered a shutdown cornerback, and he tangles with the NFL's most-dangerous wide receivers every Sunday. Conversely, Shiloh gets the opposition's best guard; the guy who is usually averaging double-digits and can take over a game.
That means Jaycee Carroll from Utah State, Ja'Vance Coleman from Fresno State and Gonzaga's Derek Raivio to name a few. Those three have been death on opposing guards during their careers, yet Shiloh has shut them down more often than not.
It's a challenge that Shiloh has always embraced. He knows that his defense was what got him on the floor as a sophomore, and it's what keeps him there.
"I pretty much was a defensive player in high school, too," Shiloh said. "I didn't have to guard such great players every game, though.
"I like the challenge. I feel I bring some toughness to the floor, and you have to be tough to play good defense. Defense is mostly mental. You have to want to play defense. It's a desire sort of thing. It takes a lot of hard work, though."
Defense, in Shiloh's eyes, is all about work ethic, and you won't find a guy who works as hard as the Nevada senior.
"I don't think he ever missed a day of practice," said Gino Lacava, Shiloh's high school coach at Garces Memorial in Bakersfield, Calif. "He was a very tough individual. Nothing rattled him. I don't remember having anybody that could guard the ball as well as Kyle."
Consider the following:
• Raivio, who has tortured West Coast Conference teams in his four-year career, scored 15 points in the Pack's 82-74 win over the Zags. Shiloh held him to seven total shots, however, and the baby-faced Gonzaga assasin was never a factor except for the two 3-pointers he hit early in the second half to give Gonzaga a 43-37 lead. In the Zags' first 12 games, only twice did he put up less than 10 shots, so holding him to seven attempts says a lot about Shiloh's effort.
"I think he made a concious effort to deny me the ball (in the first half)," said Raivio, who only had two points and two 3-point field goal attempts over the first 20 minutes.
• Carroll has made life miserable for WAC teams during his four-year career, yet Shiloh has made it difficult for him. In three games last year, Carroll shot less than 30 percent from the field, and was held to less than 10 points in two of the three games. Their match-ups are legendary.
In the first meeting this year, Carroll was held to 15 points by Shiloh and Lyndale Burleson, six below his season average. Eleven of his points came in the second half in a four-minute surge. So, when you hold the conference's leading scorer to four points in the other 36 minutes, it's a job done well.
"His discipline, the way he avoids screens," Carroll said. "He does a very good job of not getting screened. With their team such a solid defensive team, someone helps if I do get a step, someone else steps in and gets in my way."
• Coleman scored 12 points against Nevada earlier this year, but Shiloh held him to 3-for-9 from the floor. In two games last year, Coleman was 5-for-21 from the field and scored 17 points in two games. Considering he averaged 17 a game last season, Shiloh more than did his job.
Defensive gems haven't gone unnoticed by Nevada coach Mark Fox and others coaches around the conference.
"Kyle is so underappreciated by many, but not by me," said Fox, who still wonders how Shiloh didn't make the all-WAC defensive team last year. "He plays defense at the highest level. He won his job because he played good defense, and he can play defense for extended periods of time.
"I can't stress his importance to this team enough. He knows what's expected of him, and he never backs away from that. It's going to be tough on Senior Night. He and Nick (fazekas) are like sons to me."
One of Shiloh's biggest fans is Utah State coach Stew Morrill.
"(Kyle) Shiloh just does a great job (defensively)," Morrill said. "Nevada's good defensively, and he takes it as a personal challenge to go out and try and guard the better players in the league. They've got a very good defender who takes a lot of pride in trying to guard Jaycee (Carroll)."
Shiloh is far from a one-dimensional player, however.
He has handled the ball well throughout his career, and he's certainly unselfish as his 264 career assists would indicate.
It's his shooting that has really come around since his freshman season. To the surprise of many, Fox started Shiloh all 32 games his sophomore year. Fox wanted a scond ballhandler on the floor ,and he liked Shiloh's defense.
Shiloh struggled offensively, however, averaging just 5.3 points a contest. He shot 30.5 overall from the floor, and just 22 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. Not exactly the type of numbers you want to see.
Shiloh, while welcoming the challenge of playing shooting guard for the first time in his career, also knew that he had to get his confidence back shooting the ball.
The entire summer, Shiloh lofted jump shot after jump shot. He lived in the gym. He worked hard on his technique and got stronger physically.
With Fazekas, Marcelus Kemp and Mo Charlo carrying the offensive load last season early on, Shiloh remained a complementary player. He would occasionally reach double-digits.
The turning point of the season, and maybe his career, came on Jan. 12, 2006 when Idaho came to town. That's when Shiloh shut up his doubters once and for all.
The shooting touch that had been hidden away, suddenly materialized. Shiloh went 8 for 9 from the field, including 6-for-7 from 3-point range, to score 20 points and spark Nevada to a 70-44 victory.
"I just got into a rhythm," Shiloh said, his smile telling you how important that game was. "I got some good open looks."
That started a surge of five straight games where Shiloh reached double figures. He went 23-for-44 from the floor in the next four games, including 13-for-24 from beyond the 3-point arc.
Though Shiloh did cool off toward the end of last season, he posted respectable numbers of 42.4 from the field and 47 percent from 3-point range. He went from being a guy that teams could sag off on to being one of the most feared 3-point shooters on the team.
"I always felt I was a good shooter," Shiloh said. "I thought it was just a matter of time and getting the opportunities before the shot would click. The hard work I put in obviously helped a lot."
The confidence has carried over to this year. Shiloh is averaging 9.2 overall while shooting 46 opercent from the floor and a respectable 40 percent from beyond the arc.
Shiloh is coming off his best game of the season when he scored 18 points and pulled down a career-high 11 rebounds in an 81-68 win at Fresno State. Shiloh went 8-for-13 from the floor, including back-to-back 3-pointers which helped Nevada gain an 18-point lead midway through the second half.
"Kyle has improved his shooting tremendously," Fox said. "He worked extremely hard on that part of his game.
"He's gotten better every year. He plays defense at a high level, scores and rebounds. He's turned into a very complete player for us. He's been a terrific player for us."
Not bad for a guy who almost left Nevada after his freshman season because he landed in then-coach Trent Johnson's doghouse and never got out.
Shiloh was brought in to back up Todd Okeson at point guard, and he got significant minutes during the non-conference schedule. However, as the Pack got into conference play, his playing time kept dwindling.
The only action he saw in the second half of the conference season was a 13-minute stint against San Jose State. Garry Hill-Thomas and Kirk Snyder started playing some point guard when Okeson needed a breather.
No doubt it was disappointing when he saw no action in Nevada's post-season triumphs at the WAC Tournament and NCAA games against Michigan State, Gonzaga and Georgia Tech. It was like he was a forgotten man.
And, to make matters worse, Johnson told Nevada boosters that Shiloh would be "adequate" for the Pack, but that the team would be looking for another point guard.
Johnson eventually left for Stanford, and if he hadn't, Shiloh probably would have transferred, according to his parents.
Shiloh told a reporter the comments didn't bother him. If anything, the comments might have spurred him a little bit.
The Pack's senior guard has been challenged for a starting spot and playing time in each of the last three years, and each time he has met the challenge head on with success.
Shiloh said he will continue to work hard and do whatever the Pack needs him to do to be successful. In the mean time, his freshman season has become a very distant memory.
• Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281
The Shioh File
Height/weight: 6-3, 195
Hometown: Bakersfield, Calif.
High School: Garces Memorial
Major: General Studies