Nevada Wolf Pack, Grand Canyon team up for charity basketball game |

Nevada Wolf Pack, Grand Canyon team up for charity basketball game

Darrell Moody


What: Charity game for victims of recent fires in Northern California

When: Sunday, 4 p.m.

Where: Lawlor Events Center

Coaches: Eric Musselman (Nevada); Dan Majerle (Grand Canyon)

RENO — University of Nevada basketball coach Eric Musselman has coaching friends all over the United States, and when the opportunity presented itself to play an extra exhibition game for charity, he placed a call to one, Grand Canyon associate head coach Todd Lee.

Lee was on Musselman’s staff when the pair worked for the Rapid City Drillers in the old CBA back in the early 1990s. After the initial phone call, the game came together quickly, giving the Pack and the WAC favorite Antelopes a chance to meet today at 4 p.m. at Lawlor Events Center.

Today’s game raises money for North Bay Fire Relief, a fund helping victims of the recent Northern California wildfires. According to published reports, the fires caused approximately $1 billion in damage and destroyed nearly 7,000 homes. A total of 42 deaths have been reported in what has proven to be one of the worst fires in the history of California.

It is a positive for everybody. The people impacted by the fire get some much-needed finanacial help, and the teams get an extra exhibition game. Teams around the country have added games for various causes, including hurricane relief. The event is further supported by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

“We think it’s an unbelievably great gesture from the NCAA to allow these games to be played in support of the horrific events that have taken place over the last few weeks,” said Nevada coach Eric Musselman. “This game came together very quickly, thanks to Grand Canyon’s administration, coaching staff and our administration. We can’t thank Grand Canyon University enough, and especially Coach (Dan) Majerle, for enthusiastically participating in this event and their help to support such a great cause.“

Majerle is a former NBA star with the Phoenix Suns.

“GCU is all about outreach and helping as much as they can,” Majerle said in a press release. “That is something we really thrive on as a university. Anything we can do to help people that need help. I think this is a great opportunity. We’re happy to do that, and this is an awesome event for us.

“It is going to be good. We’ve been practicing a long time, Our guys are ready for some outside competition. It’s good for us as a coaching staff to see how the guys will react, especially our freshmen. We haven’t seen them in game-type situations. You know what you’re going to get with Josh (Braun) and other guys returning. It will be good for Casey (Benson) to play in a game-like atmosphere with our guys. It will be a good test early on.”

Majerle was referring to Benson, a senior transfer from Oregon, who scored more than 600 points during his three-year career with the Ducks. He averaged around 20 minutes a contest.

The Antelopes have several solid returnees in Braun (17.5 ppg), Shaq Carr (4.7), Fifi Aidoo (4.8), Oscar Frayer (9.7) and Keonta Vernon (9.3).

Majerle isn’t the only coach excited about today’s game.

Musselman will see how his new team handles real competition. Nevada is trying to replace Cam Oliver, D.J. Fenner and Marcus Marshall. Lindsey Drew and Jordan Caroline are the only returning starters.

Nevada had the advantage of a 10-day overseas trip in late summer, but the competition there was minimal. Grand Canyon should present much better competition.

“A lot of people didn’t want to play this game,” Musselman said. “Grand Canyon jumped all over it. We called everybody. From a basketball standpoint, we thought it was vital that we get a game. We didn’t have a secret scrimmage this year. Exhibition games are important for teams to get their rhythm.

“Winning or losing isn’t important. It’s utilizing video or film and figure where we are in these three exhibition games. College off-season is long, and I wish we had more opportunities to play games like this. We are not thinking we gotta win this game. We want to figure out how to get better coming out of this game.”

Musselman will be without Caleb Martin (foot injury), but as of earlier this week the team is healthy. Caroline has returned from his ankle injury. The Nevada coach will get to look at Purdue transfer Kendall Stephens, Iowa State transfer Hallice Cooke and Cody Martin, all of whom sat out last year. Graduate transfer Darien Williams also will be in a Nevada uniform for the first time. Elijah Foster sees his first real action since being suspended after seven games last year.

“We will tinker with rotations,” Musselman said. “Who we start Sunday (today) at 4 p.m. might not be the same guys that start the following exhibition game,” Musselman said. “We are using this as a vehicle to see who we are. We have a lot of tough early games. This is good for players and the coaching staff.”