Fazekas, Millsap in marquee matchup
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – Nevada’s Nick Fazekas and Louisiana Tech’s Paul Millsap are different in so many ways.
Fazekas, at 6-foot-11 and 225 pounds, is long and lean. At 6-8 and 250 pounds, Millsap is built like an NFL tight end.
Fazekas likes to keep things light, according to Nevada coach Mark Fox. Millsap, according to Louisiana Tech coach Keith Richard, is quiet and unassuming.
Fazekas plays inside and outside, but feels more comfortable facing the basket and burying a 20-foot jump shot. Millsap rarely strays outside 15 feet and does most of his damage in the paint.
The one thing they share is that they are the key reasons why their respective teams are playing so well, and the talented stars meet for the first time this season Thursday at 5 p.m. at Thomas Assembly Center in Ruston, La.
Both coaches will have their hands full at the defensive end.
“We played a box and one last year, one guy (Kevinn Pinkney) on Millsap” Fox said. “We can’t use that this year. We wouldn’t be as efficient with the players we have. You’re not going to stop him, nobody has. You hope to contain him.”
Fazekas has averaged more than 20 a game against the Bulldogs in the previous four meetings, and he scored 27 and 21 in the two games last year. Richard knows he’s a handful, and admitted he isn’t sure how or who will defend Fazekas.
It won;t often be Millsap, because the Bulldogs can ill afford him to get into foul trouble. And, you probably won’t see Fazekas on Millsap a lot of the time.
“We’re right in the middle of trying to decide how to defend (Nevada and Fazekas),” Richard said. “Obviously we haven’t had a lot of success. We have to play better defensively.”
The opposing coaches took turns praising the other team’s stars.
“He’s (Millsap) a great player,” Fox said. “He can start for any team in America and be all-league in any league in America. He’s improved his game; expanded his game. He still does most of his work inside, but he’ll step out a little bit and shoot the ball.”
“They’re both scorers,” Richard said. “They have their own way of putting the ball in the basket. Fazekas is more outside than Paul, but he puts the ball in the hole night in and night out. Nick is longer and taller, which helps at times in certain situations.”
The two command respect from everybody in the Western Athletic Conference, and all the coaches believe that both players have a future in professional basketball.
“I wish I had either of them,” Boise State’s Greg Graham said. “Millsap is a good rebounder, and one good thing he does defensively as well as anybody I’ve seen is that he protects the paint. Defensively, he’s bigger and faster than a lot of big men.
“Nick is a little taller and longer. He’s a good passer for a big man. He can pass right over you. He can be quiet for a time and then take over the game or score a key basket. He has a great touch from the outside.”
Like Graham, Hawai’i’s Riley Wallace said that both have bright futures.
“They are co-MVPs to me,” Wallace said. “Their teams rely heavily on them. Fazekas has had two big games against us. Both rebound and both are NBA-type players. One (Fazekas) is more in and out, and Millsap is like Paul Silas rebounding the ball.”
While Idaho coach Leonard Perry favors Millsap over Fazekas for WAC Player of the Year at this point, he likes Fazekas’ game.
“His (Fazekas’) skill level is very good,” Perry said. “That’s a guy that will get into the league. He’ll probably be a 4, and he might be able to be a 3 at times.”
BELL HURTS KNEE
Fox indicated that 7-foot center Chad Bell suffered a knee injury in practice earlier this week, which could cause him to miss Thursday’s game or not be at 100 percent.
Fox said it was a non-contact injury.
That’s a big blow, because with 7-footer David Ellis already out with a broken wrist, it leaves Demarshay Johnson, Mo Charlo and Fazekas as the only true front-line players. Bell has the body to bang around with Millsap and the Bulldogs’ other post players.
Darrell Moody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (775) 881-1281