Nevada basketball returns to the floor |

Nevada basketball returns to the floor

Darrell Moody
Nevada Appeal Sports Writer

RENO ” It’s only an exhibition game and doesn’t count in the win-loss record, but Nevada’s basketball team can’t wait to get on the floor.

“We’re so ready,” senior guard Lyndale Burleson said. “It’s all everybody has talked about the last couple of days.”

“We’re ready to see where the team is at,” said JC transfer Joey Shaw, who is expected to step into Marcelus Kemp’s role on the wing. “I’m excited.”

Nevada, with six straight post-season appearances under its belt, hosts Division II San Francisco State tonight at 7:05 p.m. at Lawlor Events Center.

There’s a buzz about this team, partially created by five new players ” freshman forward Luke Babbitt from Galena High School, JC transfer Shaw, freshman point guard London Giles and freshmen forwards Dario Hunt and Ahyaro Phillips.

Two of those newcomers ” Giles and Phillips ” along with returning starter Brandon Fields are suspended indefinitely after being arrested on petty larceny charges recently.

The other buzz is centered around Babbitt being re-united with longtime friend Armon Johnson. The latter set Nevada’s state high school scoring record his senior year, only to see Babbitt break it a year later.

“There should be (a buzz),” Nevada coach Mark Fox said. “They had a chance to stay home and play probably because of the great support we have. It’s a compliment to our community.”

Fox is anxious to get his squad ” all nine of them ” in the arena in front of a crowd. He said it’s much different than scrimmaging in an empty gym like the Pack did against Saint Mary’s College last weekend. This is his youngest team the fifth-year head coach has fielded.

“Like all young guys, they will play faster than they are supposed to and not think as clearly as they are supposed to,” Fox said. “We’re using this as a learning experience.

“Our focus will be on ourselves. No disrespect to San Francisco State. We have so much to learn. We’re worrying about the Wolf Pack.”

Expect the Pack to play a more up-tempo style of game than ever before. The suspended players notwithstanding, this is the most athletic team the Pack has ever put on the floor. Where it gets the Pack remains to be seen.

Even though this will be one of the smallest teams Nevada has fielded, the Pack figures to have a size and quickness advantage over the Gators, who are likely to start Darryl Robinson and Will Logan, both 6-3, at forwards alongside 6-9 Derek Fletcher, the Gators’ tallest player.

Rob Hayes and Phoenix O’Rourke start in the backcourt. Hayes is the top returning scorer at 12.1. Alex Thomas, who averaged 12.1 last year, comes off the bench.

“I know they are big and strong,” SF State coach Bill Treseler said. “They’re traditionally strong inside. That’s the big difference between Division I and Division II teams is the size inside. We have to be ready to step up and hold our ground. We’re in for a great night of competition.

“We’re a little banged up. Everyday it seems like we get a guy back and lose somebody. Martin Flores is out and a couple of the guys are questionable.”

Treseler said games like this help Division II teams.

“They help immeasurably,” Treseler said. “You are always looking for an opportunity to challenge yourselves. Our team is experienced, and I think we’re going to be pretty good. The kids look forward to playing in games like this.”

Treseler, who guided the Gators to 17 wins a year ago, likes his team’s balance on offense.

“We’re a decent shooting team,” he said. “We can score down low on the block, too. Saturday (tonight) might be a different story because of their size.”

Notes: Admission is $5, and it is open seating. Parking is free in both garages and in the lot across from the entrance to Lawlor Events Center … Nevada opens the regular season on the road with games at Montana State (Nov.15) and San Diego (Nov. 18). Nevada beat both teams at home last year.