Nevada - and Fazekas - grateful for his decision

NEW ORLEANS, La. - Nick Fazekas put his NBA dreams on hold for a year, and opponents have paid a hefty price for that decision.

Fazekas, the Wolf Pack's 6-foot-11 All-American senior forward, has enjoyed another outstanding year, averaging 20.5 points and 11.2 rebounds in leading Nevada to 28 wins this season, which tied a school record.

"It was the best decision I could have made," Fazekas told area reporters earlier this year after becoming Nevada's all-time leading scorer. "I struggled with this decision last season. One day I thought for sure I would go, and the next day I thought I would stay.

"I don't regret my decision one bit. I stayed because I thought we'd have a good year and we did. I wanted to be part of it. I felt I would and did get better; become an even better player and find ways to improve my stock and move up higher in the draft."

Fazekas holds the school records in scoring (2,427), field goals made (889), free throws made (534) and blocked shots (185). He'll end his career as the No. 2 rebounder behind Pete Padgett. He also has been named to the AP All American team the past two seasons, a first in Nevada history.

The numbers are a testament to his ability and durability. He's missed just a few games in his illustrious career, and he also shares the No. 1 spot in victories with teammate Kyle Shiloh. The duo have been a part of 105 Nevada wins, and Fazekas leaves knowing the program is better than when he first came to Nevada.

"I feel good that we put Nevada on the map," Fazekas said. "We were going to the NIT before we got here, and we have made four straight NCAA appearances. It means a whole lot to me and it means a lot to the city."

And, Fazekas hopes it's enough for the NBA teams.

"I think I have improved in every aspect I can," Fazekas said. "I know there are still questions to be answered. I have another whole off-season before the next season (starts). I don't even think about it. I'm trying to help the team win as many games as we can out here."

If you watched Fazekas at all this year, three things jumped out at you.

The first is his rebounding. He was leading the nation briefly at 14.8 rebounds a contests before dropping down a bit at the end of the year.

The second has been his shooting. Through five games, he was shooting 65 percent from the field and 61.5 from 3-point range. He ended up at 58.1 and 45 percent, respectively.

The third is his consistency. Game in and game out, Fazekas gets his numbers, and that's amazing when you see the pounding he takes from opposing defenses.

He has scored in double figures in 60 straight games, the third-longest streak in the nation. He leads the country in career 20-point games with 67.

"He shows up every night, and it doesn't matter what kind of defense he sees whether it's a double-team or zone, he's able to play well every night," Nevada coach Mark Fox said. "He makes people around him better, and that's the sign of a great player.

"He's a special player. Every player has weaknesses, but he doesn't have very many. He's been a great player for us. He's done a good job this season of being patient and letting the game come to him."

And, after a few individual workouts for a couple of teams last year, Fazekas knows what it takes to play in the NBA - a better work ethic and a better body.

"It's all about the body," said Fazekas, who admitted that teams had concerns about his slender build. "It was body, body, body. That's all they talked about, how I needed to get stronger. I hired a nutritionist, who really helped me learn to eat right; when to eat and when not to eat.

"I took away a lot (from the workouts). I hadn't probably put forth the best effort in trying to be the best player I can be. Throughout the year, even last season, I wasn't totally working as hard as I could."

Fox said that has indeed changed, and he noticed the difference in an individual workout last spring. Fox said Fazekas worked harder in a 60-minute period than he'd ever seen him work before.

Will all this success translate into Fazekas being a first-round draft pick this summer?

"It's too early to say," said Ryan Blake, who scouts college talent for the NBA with his dad, Marty, a former general manager in the NBA. "We don't know who is going to come out early yet or what foreign players will be around."

Blake, like the rest of the scouts around the NBA, knows all about Fazekas' great hands and soft shooting touch. He has a god feel for the game.

"Nick is such a complete fundamental package," Fox said. "He is so skilled that the untrained eye might not see some of the areas where he's gotten better."

Fazekas has given many of the WAC coaches migraines throughout his career, and those headaches became more severe when he decided to stay for his senior season.

"He's got a Ph.D in basketball," said Hawai'i coach Riley Wallace, whose team has been victimized by Fazekas on more than one occasion. "He always shows up and gets his numbers. He finds ways to get open and he gets where he needs to be."

'He's a pro," New Mexico State coach Reggie Theus said. "He's got the full package. There is very little he can't do. Great players find a way to get it done. He's going to score his points and get his rebounds."

Fazekas just smiles when he hears the comments. He has continually stressed the team aspect of things since he came to Nevada, and getting to a Sweet 16 again or an Elite 8 would be a dream come true this year.

However, he knows it's hard to overlook his one-man demolition derby on Nevada's record book the last couple of years.

Not bad for a guy who wasn't recruited heavily because of his rail-thin build and awkward running style.

Colorado sent him one piece of mail offering a scholarship, but never came to visit him at home. He passed on Utah after viewing Rick Majerus in action during a practice session. That left it between Marquette and Nevada.

The winners?

The Nevada fans of course. He has been a fan favorite since his freshman season, and he's given them plenty to cheer about in the last 48 months.


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