Nevada has a target on its back
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – As expected, Nevada walked off with the big preseason honors at the Western Athletic Conference’s Media Day at the Eldorado Hotel & Casino.
The Wolf Pack were a unanimous pick by the media to win the WAC, garnering all 22 votes, and 6-11 forward Nick Fazekas, the reigning WAC Player of the Year, was selected as the Preseason Player of the Year.
Nevada (25-7 a year ago) collected 198 votes, 37 points ahead of runner-up Utah State. Fresno State was ranked third with 139 and Hawai’i was fourth with 136. Louisiana Tech was fifth with 132. Boise State (87), New Mexico State (61), Idaho (40) and San Jose State (36) rounded out selections.
In a poll of WAC coaches, the Wolf Pack garnered eight of nine votes (64 points) to get the nod over Hawai’i and Utah State, both getting 50 points. Louisiana Tech was fourth with 45 points followed by Fresno State 38, Boise State 30, San Jose State 18, New Mexico State 17 and Idaho 12.
Nevada coach Mark Fox knows his team will have a big target on its collective back.
“One of the hardest things to do in athletics is to win a championship when everybody is saying you’re going to,” Fox said. “It’s a challenge; a great challenge. I’d rather have that than the alternative.”
Fazekas was a shoo-in for his honor, garnering 18 of 24 votes. Fazekas averaged 20.7 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. Louisiana Tech’s JC transfer Jerome Richardson garnered six votes, and he picked up Newcomer of the Year honors.
“I wasn’t really surprised,” Fazekas said. “It’s great receiving this honor.”
Fazekas felt getting the award silenced some critics from last year.
Coaches around the league are some of his biggest fans.
“Without a doubt he’s the best player in the league,” Louisiana Tech’s Keith Richard said. “He’s a bonafide NBA prospect.”
Fazekas and teammate Ramon Sessions (9 points, 5 assists and 3.8 rebounds) were among the media’s preseason choices for all-WAC. They were joined by Louisiana Tech’s Paul Millsap (12.4 rebounds per game), Fresno State’s Ja’Vance Coleman (16.9 points per game) and Utah State’s Jaycee Carroll (14.7, 4.3).
NEVADA WOMEN SIXTH
Defending champion Louisiana Tech was selected by the media to win the WAC women’s basketball championship.
The Lady Techsters garnered all 10 first-place votes by the media to easily outdistance Fresno State (74 points). Newcomer Idaho was third with 62, followed by San Jose State 59, Hawai’i 50, Nevada 34, Utah State 33, Boise State 26 and New Mexico State 23.
It’s the first time that Nevada has garnered enough votes to get out of last place in the last three media polls, and much of that is because of coach Kim Gervasoni’s last two recruiting classes and the fact that Rice, Tulsa, SMU and UTEP left for Conference USA.
“We’re a lot deeper,” Nevada forward Meghan McGuire said. “We have more depth and we’re going to be able to run more and press more; play more of an up-tempo game.
“Hopefully it is the year we get out (of last place). We finished strong last year (won a tournament game). Our expectations are higher.”
Tasha Williams, formerly Tasha Crain, was named the Preseason Player of the Year. She averaged 18.2 per game last year. She was joined on the preseason all-conference team by Idaho’s Emily Faurholt (23.2, 5.9), Fresno State’s Amy Parrish (13.5, 6.9) and San Jose State’s dynamic duo of Lamisha Augustine (13.8, 7.7) and Amber Jackson (14.9, 8.5). Jackson was second in the country in field goal percentage (65.9).