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Burleson tough on defense for Wolf Pack

DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer

RENO – A testament to just how good Nevada guard Lyndale Burleson is came right before the WAC Tournament when the conference coaches voted him to the all-defensive team.

That’s quite an honor, considering Burleson plays only a little more than half of every game.

“I was really happy when I found out,” said Burleseon, who leads Nevada into its College Basketball Invitational opener tonight (6 p.m.) against Houston at Lawlor Events Center. “Coach (Fox) texted me. I was excited. All the hard work paid off.”

Burleson, like Kyle Shiloh before him, takes pride in his defense. Burleson, when he comes of the bench, gets the toughest guard on the floor.

That means he gets Jaycee Carroll of Utah State, Eddie Miller from Fresno State, Matt Bauscher or Tyler Teideman from Boise State and New Mexico State’s Jonathan Gibson.

So Lyndale who is the toughest guard in the WAC? Burleson just smiles before answering.

“You mean besides Marcelus Kemp in practice?” Burleson asked. “Jaycee (Carroll) because he’s always running around out there. He never stops. You have to fight through and get around screens when you go against him.

“During the season I watch a lot of film, and that helps me prepare.

“Some people shoot 3s better than others. Some guys like to drive it to the basket. You can’t play everybody the same way.”

Burleson relishes challenges. He and teammate Brandon Fields get another one tonight in Houston’s 6-foot-3 guard Robert McKiver, who enters the CBI with a 23.1 scoring average.

Burleson may or may not not have film to fall back on because this is a quick turnaround, given the fact that the Pack just found out at 10 p.m. on Sunday that Houston would be its opponent.

He’s a quick study, and he’ll bring that same toughness tonight that he’s brought to every other game this season.

“I try to come in and give the team a lift with my defense,” Burleson said. “If they see what I’m doing, maybe it will get them to play even harder than they are.”

Nevada coach Mark Fox agreed.

“I can’t speak for the rest of the guys, but if I saw a teammate working his tail off on defense that would make me want to work harder,” Fox said. “Lyndale has been a big key to our success this year not only with his defense but with his ballhandling.”

Burleson averages 2.8 points a game, but he’s hit some big 3-pointers during the course of the season, and has proven that he’s a viable threat from the outside.

“We have so many scorers,” Burleson said. “I don’t need to score on this team. I’m not always looking to shoot, but I will take it when it’s there.”

•••

Burleson is tough, and he’s had to be. He’s the youngest of four brothers, all of whom played college and/or professional sports.

The oldest brother, Alvin Jr., played college football at Washington. Kevin played college basketball at Minnesota, played some in the NBA with Charlotte and is now playing overseas. Then there is Nate, who was a football star at Nevada and is now with the Seattle Seahawks.

And to top it off, Lyndale’s father, Al, played in both the NFL and Candian Football League.

So, it’s easy to see why Lyndale is so tough. He’s had to be. No doubt he may have taken an errant elbow or two from one of his siblings on the playground. He grew up in a sports family, and with that comes pressure to succeed.

“Everything, all of them,” Lyndale said when asked what sports he played growing up. “I was the only one that didn’t play football because I didn’t want to get hit. I should have played it though when I was younger.”

When you ask who the best athlete is in the Burleson family, Lyndale doesn’t take long to answer.

“I’d say my oldest brother, Alvin Jr.,” the younger Burleson said. “He can still play basketball right now even tough he’s the oldest. I’m probably closest to him in terms of temperment and competitiveness.

“Nate keeps telling me he’s faster than I am and I tell him I’ll race him anytime and beat him. When that happens, Ill be sure to call you.”

Burleson said, though, that it’s a tight-knit family even though it’s been spread out at times.

The Pack junior credits his family for helping him to get through things this summer when he found out he was academically ineligible and would miss the early portion of the Pack’s schedule.

“I was in Reno when I talked to one of the assistant coaches and found out that I might be ineligibe,” Burleson said. “I remember when I did go home I moped around quite a bit.

“My family told me to buckle down and work hard. They were encouraging.”

Even Fox marveled at how Burleson handled the issue.

“I don’t know that I could have handled it as well as he did,” Fox said earlier this year.

Fox commented on Burleson’s maturity during the early season practices. Burleson worked closely with Armon Johnson, imparting any knowledge he could to help make his teammate better.

• Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281

HOUSTON (22-9) VS. NEVADA (21-11)

WHEN: Today, 6 p.m.

WHERE: Lawlor Events Center

TV-RADIO: Fox Sports/630AM, pre-game at 5:40 p.m.

PREDICTION: Nevada by 3

HOUSTON

F Dion Dowell (11.2, 6.7)

F Tafari Toney (6.8, 6.1)

G Kelvin Lewis (9.5, 3.9)

G Robert McKiver (23.1, 4.1)

G Lanny Smith (5.5, 2.2)

COACH – Tom Penders

NEVADA

F Demarshay Johnson (6.7, 4.6)

C JaVale McGee (14.2, 7.4)

G Brandon Fields (12.3, 2.5)

G Armon Johnson (11.3, 4.1)

G Marcelus Kemp (19.8, 5.4)

COACH Mark Fox