Nevada men’s hoops signs two
Nevada Appeal Sports Writer
RENO ” As expected, Steven Bjornstad and Devonte Elliott signed national letters of intent on Wednesday to play basketball for Nevada starting next fall.
A third player, Mark McLaughlin, who signed with Nevada last year but didn’t enroll in August because he hadn’t been cleared by the NCAA, will honor his commitment and join the squad next fall. McLaughlin has finally received clearance from the NCAA.
The 6-foot-10 226-pound Bjornstad from Columbia River High School averaged 18.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and 4 blocks per game. He shot an amazing 80 percent from the floor in leading his squad to a 21-7 record and a league title.
The 6-foot-9 Elliott averaged 10 points and nine rebounds a game, and also blocked 4.5 shots per contest in helping Paramount High to a 16-12 record.
Nevada coach Mark Fox and his staff were looking for players 6-9 and above in this recruiting class. The Pack is badly in need of size. The present team doesn’t have a player over 6-foot-8.
“Steven has a big body, and is a tough physical presence,” Fox said. “He’s a complete player. He gives us length and size inside. Devonte is a versatile player who can play inside and outside. The combination of Steven and Devonte will give us legitimate frontline size.”
Bjornstad said he never wavered from his verbal commitment, and he hopes to make an immediate impact next season.
“I love Nevada,” Bjornstad said Wednesday from his home in Vancouver, Washington. “Everybody was really friendly on my visit. I think they have a great basketball program. Luke (Babbitt) was my host on my visit, and we talk every now and then. I’d seen Nevada play (on television) but honestly didn’t watch that carefully.”
Bjornstad hopes that he can become a true center, which the Pack doesn’t have.
Bjornstad’s high school coach, David Long, raved about his star center, and says the Wolf Pack is getting a good player.
“He’ll bring size, no question about it,” Long said. “He is not necessarily a big, powerful body. He’s more of a finesse body. He’s really, really long. His arms are long and his shoulders are big. His wingspan is tremendous.
“He takes good shots. He doesn’t play outside his range. We don’t need him to take (3-pointers), but he can shoot it. He knows he has to be able to shoot the basketball outside as well (in college). Right away he’ll bring some defense. He’ll bring some points, but he won’t be a go-to guy right away.”
If Bjornstad can come in and excel on defense right away, there is no doubt that Fox will find him minutes immediately. Already, the youngster knows the importance of defense, and it will be drilled into him a thousand-fold when he arrives in Reno next summer.
The 6-foot-5 McLaughlin, who was considered one of the top shooting guards in the nation last year at Inglemoor High in Kenmore, Washington, averaged 21.3 points in 12 contests last year.
He left the team before the season ended to concentrate on academics.
“We’re very pleased that what we anticipated to be the outcome for Mark has become official,” Fox said. “Although it took longer than we all hoped, we are pleased that Mark will be joining our team in the fall. He is a very talented young player.”
London Giles, Ahyaro Phillips and Brandon Fields appeared at Wednesday’s media gathering and all three issued apologies for their actions to the community, teammates, coaches and fans. They were not allowed to answer any questions, however.
The trio was arrested in mid-October on charges of petty larceny at a sporting goods store in Sparks. Giles pleaded guilty and is supposed to pay a fine and Phillips pleaded not guilty and is awaiting a court date. The charge against Fields was dropped.
“Nothing has really changed,” Fox said. “I got tired of seeing them run (in practice). They are allowed to practice some.
“Will they ever play? I don’t know. If you see them out there, their suspension is over.”
GAME WILL BE CALLED DIFFERENTLY
Nevada got to the line often in its blowout win over San Francisco State, and a lot of the fouls called were the result of a NCAA mandate on how officials are supposed to call games, according to Fox.
“Anytime a defender puts two hands on you a foul is called,” Fox said. “They are trying to clean up the game. The game is getting too physical.”
Many times in past years, fouls like that wouldn’t be called unless the defender was gaining an advantage. Now it doesn’t matter.