Nevada picked third in the WAC
Appeal Sports Writer
SALT LAKE CITY – What a difference a year and no Nick Fazekas makes.
In three of the last four years, the Nevada Wolf Pack has been the preseason choice of the media and coaches to win the Western Athletic Conference men’s basketball title thanks in a large part to Fazekas, a three-time WAC Player of the Year.
Nevada, 29-5 a year ago, was ranked third by both the media and the coaches. The polls were announced at Wednesday’s WAC Media Day.
The coaches ranked Utah State (4 first-place votes), New Mexico State (3), Nevada (1), Fresno State (1), Boise State, Hawaii, Louisiana Tech, San Jose State, and Idaho. Nevada finished with 53 points.
The media voted New Mexico State (13 first-place votes), Utah State (10), Nevada (7), Fresno State, Boise State, Hawaii, Louisiana Tech, San Jose State and Idaho. Nevada had 239 points in the media poll, 16 behind the Aggies.
“I don’t put a lot of stock into it,” Nevada coach Mark Fox said. “I’ve never talked to the team about it. We were placed lower my first year. It makes it interesting for you guys to worry about.
“I think the league is very good. It’s underappreciated. There are a lot of good teams in it.”
Marcelus Kemp, a preseason first-team pick, wasn’t bothered by the polls, either.
“Not really,” he said in a short conference call. “A lot of people left – Nick (Fazekas), Ramon (Sessions), Dennis (Ikovlev) and Kyle (Shiloh).
“As a team we’re not worried about where we’re picked. We’ll let our game speak for itself.”
New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies, who promises an attacking style of play, said his transition has been smooth. He said he’s not placing much importance on the early opinions.
“It’s good for the fans and the media,” he said. “You still have to lace them up and play the game.”
On the women’s side, Nevada, which reached the semifinals of the WAC Tournament last year, was second in the coaches’ poll and third in the media poll.
Nevada, 17-15 overall and 10-6 in conference play, finished with one first-place vote and 52 points in the coaches’ poll and one first-place vote and 98 points in the media poll.
In the coaches’ poll, Boise grabbed seven of the nine first-place votes for 63 points. After Nevada, it was Louisiana Tech, Fresno State, New Mexico State, Hawaii, Utah State, San Jose State and Idaho.
In the media poll, it was Boise State (128), Louisiana Tech (109), Nevada, New Mexico State (94), Fresno State (85), Hawaii (63), Utah State (46), Idaho (27) and San Jose State (25).
The recent polls shows just how much the program has progressed under Kim Gervasoni’s guidance.
“The first two years we were picked 10th,” Gervasoni said. “We’ve come a long way.”
Gervasoni credits the players she has recruited as well as her assistant coaches for getting the ship righted.
“It’s definitely nice to get some recognition,” junior guard Dellena Criner said. “People know that we have a competitive team that can finish in the top three in the conference.”
• Utah State’s Jaycee Carroll and Boise State’s Jessica Thompson were named the conference’s players of the year.
Carroll led the WAC in scoring at 21.3 a game, including an 88.8 mark from the foul line.
“It’s cool, it’s neat, it’s exciting,” Carroll said when asked about the honor. “It motivates me to continue to work hard and live up to expectations that others have of me.”
Carroll is no stranger to hard work. He took more than 23,000 shots over the summer, connecting on more than 20,000 of them. It’s a regime he has followed closely since he came to Utah State.
Carroll is 391 points away from being the school’s all-time scoring leader. He said he didn’t like the fact that the media guide said he was “just 391 points shy” of the record.
“Like it’s easy to score,” said Carroll, who got married in the off-season. “I’m trying not to worry about things.”
Thompson, who averaged 13.7 a game last season, was surprised by the honor.
“I just found out about an hour ago,” Thompson said. “I was very surprised. I don’t think I deserved it. There are a lot of other good guards in the conference.”
• The preseason men’s and women’s teams also were announced on Wednesday.
The media voted Fresno State’s Kevin Bell, Kemp, Carroll, New Mexico State’s Justin Hawkins and Boise State’s Reggie Larry. The coaches’ vote went nearly the same save for the inclusion of New Mexico’s Fred Peete and the exclusion of Bell.
The media and coaches were in agreement on the women’s squad, which included Criner, Thompson, Idaho’s Katie Madison, New Mexico State’s Sherell Neal and Fresno State’s Tierre Wilson.