Kemp, Fields won’t play today
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – Nevada starts the post-Nick Fazekas era today with an exhibition basketball game against Division II Seattle Pacific University.
Tip-off is at 2:05 p.m. The Nevada women will play Sonoma State in an exhibition game 30 minutes after the men’s contest.
The Wolf Pack will be without senior Marcelus Kemp and sophomore Brandon Fields, both of whom violated team policy.
Fazekas, the three-time WAC Player of the Year, is a rookie with the Dallas Mavericks. He has been the face of the program, and some will say helped put it on the map.
“This wasn’t Nick’s team,” Fox said. “Nick wouldn’t even say it was Nick’s team. Nick was a great player. We have to find a way to replace all those points and rebounds.
“Nick and Dennis (Ikovlev) were a productive front line. If they were track and field athletes I don’t know that they would medal. We’re athletic up front.”
The slack for Fazekas will be picked up by 7-foot senior David Ellis, 7-foot sophomore JaVale McGee, 6-8 sophomore Matt LaGrone and 6-9 senior Demarshay Johnson, who was ineligible last year.
Johnson obviously is happy to get back on the floor in a meaningful situation as he tries to shake off the rust from missing a year of competition.
“Everyone is pretty excited,” he said. “They are all anxious to get going. It’s a good feeling seeing somebody besides your teammates.”
Nevada’s front line has a big size and quickness advantage over Seattle Pacific.
“They are so athletic, oh my goodness,” said Seattle Pacific coach Jeff Hironaka. “They have (JaVale) McGee who is so long, and they have Demarshay (Johnson) and David Ellis, who is a good shooter. They are definitely going to have a length advantage inside. Nevada executes so well. I hope we can make it competitive enough for them to get something out of it.
“These games are always good for us. We can find out if we’re in the ballpark or not. We’ve only had 15 practices, and they have had 17 or 18. It’s so early. We don’t have a lot in. As long as kids don’t lose confidence, these games are good.”
The Falcons, who made it to the Final 4 two years ago, return two starters – 6-10 center Rob Hill (13 ppg., 6.3 rpg.) and 6-5 forward JoeJay Jackson (9.4, 4.8). Gone are Dustin Bremerman (18.9), Drew Matzen (8.6) and Brian Lynch (4.9).
“We’ll miss Bremerman a lot,” Hironaka said. “He was a solid offensive weapon for us. We don’t have that one go-to guy right now. We have a little more balance. We can spread the scoring out a little bit.”
“This is not a prototype Seattle Pacific team. We’re a little more athletic, but not quite as strong.”
Hironaka is relying on three returnees to help fill the void – 6-2 guard Marques Echols, who played high school ball with Kemp, 6-5 wing Casey Reed (4.5 ppg) and 6-8 forward Rob Diederichs (8.8, 3.2). Guard Jared Moultrie should have an expanded role this season after playing just one game last year as will 6-7 forward Filip Popovic (1.4, 1.5).
Fox wants to win this game, but he also knows that with so many young players, it will be a learning situation.
“There are so many things we need to learn,” Fox said. “We have a lot of new guys in new roles. We have to develop our defense.”
Fox won’t have a full complement of players to use. With Kemp and Fields out, Tyrone Hanson no longer on the team, Lyndale Burleson ineligible and Richie Phillips injured, Nevada will play only nine players today.
That means that Fox will get a lengthy look at freshmen Malik Cooke and hometown hero Armon Johnson from Hug. Senior Curry Lynch should get some minutes along with redshirt freshman Adam Carp.
Armon Johnson admitted he will probably be nervous when he runs onto the court for the first time in a Nevada uniform.
“Everytime I’m nervous,” the younger Johnson said. “It’s good to have nerves as long as you’re not scared.
“Whatever happens, happens. I’m going to play my best and do the best I can do. I don’t think it’s hit me yet. I’m excited.”
•Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1281