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Student-athletes put it all on the line

BY DARRELL MOODY

Nevada Appeal Sports Writer

Covering college sports programs for the past five years has shown me just what a tough grind the student-athlete has.

Trying to balance academics and sports is tougher than just being a full-time student, and my hat goes off to them. Unlike regular students, athletes don’t get a lot of vacation. Regular students don’t have to try and mix in academics around weekend football trips or cross-country basketball/baseball trips. Basketball and football players usually stay in Reno year-round working on their games.

In fact, Nevada basketball coach Mark Fox requires his players to take summer classes in at least one summer session. That’s a good idea. Taking a couple of summer classes allows you to get ahead and maybe take one less class each semester during the season when juggling school and sports becomes tougher.

Travel during the basketball season is grueling. When the Western Athletic Conference had travel partners, players would be out of class every other Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Two years ago, Nevada had to go all the way to Louisiana for one game.

While a regular student gets holidays off and a month of vacation at the semester break, a basketball player is practicing every day and sometimes on holidays.

Football teams have had to practice Thanksgiving morning some years depending on how the schedule falls. This year, because Nevada is playing a bowl game after Christmas, players are getting Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off though they have to be in town on Christmas night because the team leaves the 26th for Boise for the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl.

Basketball teams have gotten maybe Christmas Day off, but have to be back in town that night. Basketball players that have the money to go home and live close do so. Others stay in town, and Coach Fox has hosted a Christmas dinner at his house numerous times for players unable to get home for a quick trip.

Other times, parents will come to Reno and celebrate Christmas with their sons or daughters who are involved in athletics. That’s not ideal, but if you’re a student-athlete sometimes you have to improvise.

– I was sad to see Reggie Theus get canned by the Sacramento Kings this past week.

Many said Theus was a self-promoter when he was at New Mexico State. So what if he was? Having a former NBA coach there made it possible for the school to get really good really fast. The Aggies were a force in his two seasons at NMSU.

I liked Theus because he was good with the media whether you were local or not. His second year at NMSU, I had an appointment with him for a phone interview while I was in town for a game. He was 30 minutes late because of a fund-raising function on campus. He spent the first 10 minutes of the interview apologizing for being late. A lot of coaches wouldn’t have done that.

Theus had an opinion about everything related to basketball, and being a former media member himself, he made his players available for out-of-town interviews because he knew it not only would help his program but pump up interest for a game. I truly think he enjoyed dealing with the media and there was always some light-hearted banter when he was around.

Nobody could get a crowd at Las Cruces fired up like Reggie. I’d love to see him back in the college ranks.