Wolf Pack doesn’t want to share
For the Nevada Appeal
RENO – Nevada Wolf Pack seniors Dario Hunt and Olek Czyz will be playing their final regular season game at Lawlor Events Center Saturday night.
“It hasn’t struck me yet,” Czyz said. “I haven’t really gotten a chance to stop and think about it.”
“It hasn’t hit me yet,” Hunt said. “But I’m sure on Saturday when I walk out there with my parents it will hit me.”
Hunt and Czyz, the only two seniors on this year’s Wolf Pack men’s basketball team, will be honored before Saturday night’s (7 p.m.) home game against Louisiana Tech. The Pack, which will also host New Mexico State today (8 p.m., ESPN2) at Lawlor, is playing its final two regular season games this week before heading down to the Western Athletic Conference Tournament March 8-10 in Las Vegas.
“Senior Night is going to be exciting and a little bit sad, too,” said Czyz, who won two Class 4A high school state titles at Lawlor as a member of the Reno Huskies. “It’s something you always think about all during high school and college, playing your last home game. I just want to leave on as great a note as I can.”
Czyz, who joined the Wolf Pack last season after transferring from Duke, is averaging 13.7 points and 6.5 rebounds this season. Hunt, now in his fourth season as a Wolf Pack starter, is averaging 10.3 points and 9.9 rebounds this year for the 23-5 Wolf Pack.
“Olek and Dario complement each other so well,” said Wolf Pack coach David Carter of his starting center (Hunt) and power forward (Czyz). “We’re going to miss them both next year.”
Carter has seen Hunt develop into one of the greatest defensive players in school history. The undersized (6 feet 8, 238 pounds) center owns the Wolf Pack career record for blocks (254 and counting) as well as blocks by a freshman (67) and senior (62 and counting). He also is just 29 rebounds away from becoming just the fourth Pack player in history with 1,000 points scored and 1,000 rebounds. He currently has 1,031 points and 971 rebounds.
Czyz, who wasn’t eligible to play for the Pack until December 2010, will go down in Pack history as one of the more efficient offensive players from the field. He currently has a .544 (245-of-450) career shooting percentage, ranking him eighth in school history.
Both Hunt and Czyz said this season’s WAC regular season title was a dream come true. The Pack clinched first place and the top seed in the WAC Tournament with a 79-76 triple-overtime victory at Fresno State last Saturday.
“That banner will be there forever,” Czyz said. “When I come back here to watch games I’ll be able to look up, see that banner and say I won a championship here.”
The Wolf Pack, at 23-5 overall and 11-1 in the WAC, is currently two games ahead of New Mexico State (22-8, 9-3) in the league standings with two games to play. Although the Pack has already clinched the No 1 seed in the WAC Tournament next week because of the tiebreakers, they would like to be all alone on top of the WAC standings come Sunday morning.
“I’m not a big fan of sharing anything,” Hunt said.
“You don’t share your girlfriend and you don’t want to share a league championship,” smiled Carter.
The last WAC regular season title the Pack won outright was 2006-07.
New Mexico State features 6-foot-7 forward Wendell McKines. McKines leads the WAC in both scoring (18.4) and rebounding (10.5) and would seem to be one of the top picks as the conference’s Player of the Year this year. McKines also leads the WAC in double-doubles (16), 20-point games (15) and 10-rebound games (17).
The Pack used a very effective zone defense in a 68-60 win over the Aggies at Las Cruces, N.M., on Jan. 26. They limited McKines to just 15 points and eight rebounds on just 2-of-12 shooting.
“He’s going to get his points and rebounds,” Carter said. “But you just have to make it tough on him, make him work at both ends of the floor.”
Carter agreed that McKines is one of the favorites for the WAC’s Player of the Year award but he stopped short of saying he is the clear choice for the award.
“Can I vote for one of my own players?” he said, smiling. “He’s definitely right up there (for WAC Player of the Year consideration). When you play New Mexico State he’s the guy you have to game plan for.”
Tonight’s game could be a preview of the WAC title game next Saturday in Las Vegas.
“We want to send a message (to New Mexico State),” Czyz said. “This game (against New Mexico State) is huge. “