Joe Santoro: It was Jordan Brown’s decision to leave Nevada Wolf Pack | NevadaAppeal.com

Joe Santoro: It was Jordan Brown’s decision to leave Nevada Wolf Pack

Joe Santoro

Sports fodder …

It’s not surprising or shocking Jordan Brown announced last week he has left the Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team and will join the Arizona Wildcats. The surprising aspect of the entire confusing 13-month Brown era at Nevada is he came to the Wolf Pack in the first place. He had to know he was joining a team with three seniors (Caleb and Cody Martin, Jordan Caroline) who were going to take almost all of the shots and play almost all of the significant minutes last season. He had to know he was joining a program that stood a good chance of losing its coach (Eric Musselman) at the end of the year. He had to know Nevada already had a bigger, stronger and more experienced post player in Trey Porter. He had to know Nevada wasn’t in the Pac-12. Or maybe he just thought having a McDonald’s All American title on your resume would take care of everything. Go ahead and blame Musselman if you want to for playing Brown just 10 minutes a game last year. And go ahead and blame Musselman if you want to for making Brown want to leave Nevada after just one season. But Musselman has been gone from Nevada for two months. New Pack coach Steve Alford likely would have played Brown 40 minutes a game for the next three years. And Brown still left. It’s not Musselman’s fault Brown left. It’s not Alford’s fault. It’s not Nevada’s fault. It was Brown’s decision.

•••

Musselman was seen on social media in May 2018 running around his house in utter joy with young daughter Mariah chasing after him when Brown committed to the Pack a year ago. And then he proceeded to bury the 6-foot-11 Brown on his bench once the season started. Musselman simply didn’t handle last year’s roster well at all. And that’s because he certainly didn’t care a bit about the future of Wolf Pack basketball beyond the 2018-19 season. His handling of Brown is all the proof you need of Musselman’s mindset all last year. He was going to get out of Reno as soon as he received an offer he could live with. You don’t sign a McDonald’s All American and then not play him, especially if you’re coaching at Nevada. After what Musselman did to Brown last year, you have to wonder why any highly sought after freshman would ever sign with a Musselman team or believe anything he tells them in the recruiting process.

•••

The 6-foot-11 Brown was the Mountain West Preseason Freshman of the Year going into last season. The Wolf Pack was picked to win the Mountain West. Some wondered if Brown would leave the Pack after one season and jump to the NBA. Utah State was picked to finish ninth last year. It had a 6-foot-11 freshman of its own, Neemias Queta, that hardly anyone outside of the state of Utah had ever heard of. Well, Queta went on to win the Mountain West Freshman of the Year award after the season. He was named the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year, playing 27 minutes a game and averaging 11.8 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks a game. The Aggies beat Nevada on March 2 to help them earn a share of the conference regular season title. They later would win the conference tournament. Brown played 10 minutes a game and averaged three points and two rebounds a game. The Pack won one game in the conference tournament. Brown is now at Arizona and Queta, who went through the NBA draft process this spring, is back at Utah State and ready for his sophomore season. Utah State’s handling of Queta is how you nurture and develop a standout freshman if you actually care about the future of your basketball program beyond the current season.

•••

Don’t feel too sorry for Kevin Durant. Yes, his comeback lasted all of 12 minutes last Monday night before he ruptured his Achilles. And, yes, he’ll likely miss the entire 2019-20 season unless, of course, he makes the goofy decision to come back early once again. Durant has likely played his last game for the Warriors and he’ll likely become a free agent this summer. But his injury won’t cost him anything financially next year, even though he likely won’t score a point all season. All he has to do is opt in to the final year of his Warriors deal to get $31.5 million to sit home all year. He can then sign another deal a year from now. But some silly NBA team will likely do the Warriors a huge favor and sign Durant this summer and pay him 30-plus million this year to sit home hoping he’ll be ready to go in 2020-21 and beyond.

•••

The Wolf Pack hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since head coach Jay Norvell and offensive coordinator Matt Mumme took over the offense for the start of the 2017 season. That’s not surprising, given the pass-happy reputation of the Air Raid offense. This is the first time the Pack has gone without a 1,000-yard rusher for two consecutive years since the school’s first two seasons in Division I-A in 1992 and 1993. The Pack had 10 1,000-yard rushers in Chris Ault’s final eight seasons with the Pistol Offense from 2005-12.

•••

It would be surprising, though, if sophomore Toa Taua doesn’t go over 1,000 yards this year. Taua had 872 yards a year ago as a freshman on just 178 carries. With a new, inexperienced quarterback this year, the Pack might put a greater emphasis on the running game this year. Taua, though, piled up nearly half his yards (417) and five of his six touchdowns last year in just three games (Toledo, San Jose State, Hawaii). He had just 72 yards and no scores combined in the Pack’s three Mountain West losses (Boise State, Fresno State, UNLV). He also had just seven yards on 13 carries against San Diego State, one of the toughest teams in the league against the run. Taua’s success on the ground, especially against the better teams, will likely be a key to this entire Pack season.

•••

Rotoworld.com, a web site that caters to fantasy sports, believes former Pack point guard Cody Martin will be drafted by the Sacramento Kings next week with the final pick of the draft in the second round. Martin worked out for the Kings recently and said, “I’d love to be in this kind of culture.” Martin also said he would be a good fit in Sacramento. “What I take pride in is my all-around game. People love being around me. I’m just one of those guys everybody gets along with.” Martin said that finally being separated from his twin brother Caleb will be good for both players’ careers. “That’s one of the biggest questions people have is how are we going to transition to playing without each other because we basically have played with each other our whole careers,” Cody said. “We’re going to be fine. If anything, it’s going to expand our games and show people how much more there is to our game.”