Fazekas will return for his senior year at Nevada
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – Nevada junior forward Nick Fazekas is putting his dreams of an NBA career on hold for one more season.
Fazekas, the two-time Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year, announced Friday that he had withdrawn from the NBA Draft and would return for his senior season.
“I just felt like I could get better; become an even better player and find ways to improve my stock and move up higher in the draft,” Fazekas said. “Playing a senior season would only help me.
“I love everything about the university and going to school has no effect on me, so I really feel we can come back and have another great team and look forward to winning another championship.”
Obviously coach Mark Fox was happy to have him back for another season, but sorry that his star player didn’t get to realize his dream yet.
“I had asked Nick really two things,” Fox said. “When our season ended, I told him to determine a number in which it would be his cut line, and I said if you’re not drafted at that point, that means you could come back.
“He came up with a number, and even though he had some teams tell him he’s a first-round pick, he didn’t get a guarantee at his number. I tried to get him to change his number, but he refused to do that and made his decision to return.”
Fox was impressed with the maturity that Fazekas showed during the entire process.
“This has run the gauntlet of emotions,” Fox said. “There were days I’m sure Nick was gone. There were days he thought maybe he would come back. A week later, he was sure he was going. It’s been quite the ordeal. Nick has stayed more level-headed in the process than I have.”
The 6-foot-11 Fazekas said he made his decision three or four days ago, and it wasn’t an easy one. “We went and worked out quite a while back, came home and I figured I’ll probably come back to school,” Fazekas said. “This was probably two or three weeks (ago) when I kind of figured I’ll probably come back to school. I kept working out and trying to stay in shape, maybe waiting for a call, then went and worked out again.
“I kind of thought that might have been my calling, but that didn’t go through, so then me and coach Fox sat down two or three days ago and really just weighed the odds of what the plusses and minuses were of maybe staying and possibly slipping into the second round. That’s wasn’t something I wanted to do. I just felt I’m better than that and I can get better. I’ve got so many places I can improve, and I think this is a decision that will let me come back and get better.”
Fox admitted that the timing surprised him.
“I thought he would go up until the deadline,” Fox said. “He called me and said he needed to see me, and he just wanted to make a decision now so when our new players come to school this weekend and summer school starts on Monday that he would be able to start working and the group wouldn’t have to worry whether Nick was back or not. I thought that was a very mature approach for him.”
While not realizing his dream this year was a disappointment for Fazekas, he admitted that he was able to take things away from his NBA workouts, most notably a better work ethic.
“I took away a lot,” he said. “To be honest, I probably haven’t put forth the greatest (effort) as far as trying to be the best player I can be. Throughout the years, even last year, I’ve just kind of been going through, maybe not totally working out as hard as I could or anything like that.
“When coach Fox and I got together, we did an hour hard, and coach said it was the hardest he’d ever seen me work. Now I really know what it takes to get to the next level. By working out for a few different teams, I’ve seen what they like and don’t like, and it’s not so much about that, it’s about me working hard.”
That’s the sort of thing Fox wants to hear from any player.
“When you are a great college player and you are having success with the skills you have, your work ethic is at one stage,” Fox said. “I think that Nick felt like OK, now I have to get better as a player. He was probably a 90 percent practice player before, and this spring he became a 100 percent effort guy in all the little things we do. Nick is a better player today because of the process.”
Fazekas, who averaged 21.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game last season, returns to an incredible situation. The Pack returns nine players from the team that went 27-6 last season and won its third straight WAC championship and made its third straight NCAA appearance. Expectations will be high again.
“Coach and I have talked, and we feel this could be the best team we’ve ever seen here,” Fazekas said. “We have all the intangibles to do it.
“Ever since I’ve been here, we’ve always been expected to win, you know, win every night. That is the expectation. Losing is not accepted around here anymore and that is fine by me. I’ve never been on a losing team. I know a lot of guys around me have never been on a losing team, so none of us accept losing.”
Fazekas didn’t go and predict that the Pack was going to win the championship out right or make a run to the Final Four, but he definitely said the team will have another good season.
And then there are records to be broken.
Fazekas already leads in career blocked shots (144). He is 65 points behind Edgar Jones in career points scored, he is 83 field goals behind Jones in career field goals made and he’s 37 free throws behind Terrance Green. He should, barring injury, break all of those records.
Nevada retired Kirk Snyder’s jersey last year, and Fazekas would like nothing better than to have that honor bestowed on him sometime in the future.
“It may distinguish me maybe as one of the best players ever to play here, but my goal when I came here wasn’t to break every record in the record book,” he said. “My goal was to win and hopefully fulfill my dream of playing in the NBA. To break a record is a positive thing, just a plus to my whole career here. I’ve been talking about hopefully having my jersey retired here and I would love that to happen.”
That’s one thing nobody should bet against.