What can Brown do for the Pack? A lot writes Joe Santoro | NevadaAppeal.com

What can Brown do for the Pack? A lot writes Joe Santoro

Joe Santoro
Jordan Brown (right) guards San Diego State forward Matt Mitchell last season during a game in Reno.
Tom R. Smedes/AP

Sports fodder … Jordan Brown just might be the key to the Nevada Wolf Pack’s chances of getting back to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The former McDonald’s All American is one of the most sought-after players in the nation looking to transfer this spring. Kentucky, Arizona and LSU are among the schools reportedly interested in the 6-foot-11 center who has three years of eligibility remaining. Brown didn’t do much his first season at Nevada, averaging 3.0 points and 2.1 rebounds in 10.1 minutes a game. But that wasn’t entirely his fault. He was all but buried on the bench the final dozen games of the year, scoring 1.5 points with 1.6 rebounds in 8.5 minutes a game. But 6-11 McDonald’s All Americans aren’t available every year on the open market and you can bet Brown might seriously entertain the thought of suiting up for Kentucky or LSU in the SEC if only to show former coach Eric Musselman at Arkansas what he kept pinned to the bench last season.

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Brown, though, could very well elect to stay at Nevada. The Wolf Pack, after all, can offer Brown something that other schools might not be able to put on the table. Immediate playing time and big minutes. A chance to play right away next year (he’d have to sit out a year if he transfers) and 30-plus minutes a game would be enough for a former McDonald’s All American to stay at Nevada instead of jumping to Kentucky or LSU, especially one who might want to get to the NBA sooner rather than later. Alford, who doesn’t have to keep a trio of 23-year-old fifth-year seniors happy next year, might make Brown the centerpiece of his first Pack team.

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Stick Brown in the middle of the Wolf Pack offense and defense and, well, the Pack will likely be the favorites to win the Mountain West regular season title again next season. Add Lindsey Drew, shooting guard Jazz Johnson and transfers (if they remain at Nevada) Jo Jo Anderson, Jalen Harris, Shamiel Stevenson, Eric Parrish and Daryl Edwards, along with K.J. Hymes and Nisre Zouzoua, and the Pack will again be one of the deepest teams in the Mountain West. The thought of Drew lobbing passes to Brown for easy transition dunks is enough to excite Pack fans. But Drew, Anderson, Harris, Stevenson and Brown are still in the NCAA transfer portal so nothing is guaranteed right now.

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One thing that is guaranteed is that new coach Steve Alford has assembled an experienced coaching staff, hiring former New Mexico head coach Craig Neal as associate head coach along with Kory Alford (his son), Kory Barnett and Bil Duany. Barnett was with Alford at UCLA and, like Alford and Duany, is a former Indiana Hoosiers player. Neal, who grew up in Indiana at about the same time as Alford, was the head coach at New Mexico when the Wolf Pack rallied from 25 down with just under 11 minutes to play and 11 down with under a minute to go to win 105-104 in overtime. Neal was 25-7 at New Mexico and went to the NCAA tournament in 2013-14 when he replaced Alford as Lobos head coach and then went a combined 49-45 without going to the NCAA tournament in his final three years.

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Did the Wolf Pack’s Big Three in men’s basketball live up to their billing last season? Well, not exactly. Caleb and Cody Martin and Jordan Caroline, like many 23-year-old fifth-year seniors, didn’t get all that much better (if at all) in their final season at Nevada. Caleb, in fact, declined in many areas. He did average a third of a point more his senior year (thanks to 69 more 3-point attempts), but his field goal percentage, his 3-point shooting percentage and his free throw percentage all dropped dramatically. Cody’s scoring average dropped nearly two points a game, mainly because he didn’t get to the free throw line as much, despite improving as a 3-point shooter. His rebounding also plummeted from 6.3 a game to 4.5 as did his blocked shots (53 to 23) and steals (60 to 46). Caroline, who slumped badly in the final two weeks of the year, dropped in almost all categories except 3-point shooting. That lack of improvement is probably the biggest reason why all three are hard to find on current NBA mock draft lists.

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The other misnomer about the Pack basketball team in 2018-19 is that it had a deeper roster than the previous year. The 2017-18 team had Kendall Stephens, Lindsey Drew, Josh Hall, Hallice Cooke, Darrien Williams and Elijah Foster to go along with the Big Three. Last year’s team had Jazz Johnson, Tre’shawn Thurman, Trey Porter, Jordan Brown and Corey Henson. Brown and Henson did almost nothing down the stretch and Porter also saw inconsistent minutes. Musselman simply refused to use his depth this past season, putting a ton of pressure on the Big Three.

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The Wolf Pack football team did not have a player drafted in last week’s NFL draft. The Pack has now had just one player (Austin Corbett in 2018) drafted over the last five NFL drafts combined. Corbett, who joined the Pack in 2013, is the only Pack player drafted that was recruited by either Bill Polian and Jay Norvell, the two coaches hired to replace Chris Ault. Ault, who retired after the 2012 season, never got enough credit for his ability to find talent. He had 11 of his recruits drafted by the NFL from 2009-14.

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The greatest Wolf Pack football team (2010) had 10 players on its roster that were eventually drafted by the NFL. Colin Kaepernick, Virgil Green and Dontay Moch were drafted in 2011, James Michael Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Isaiah Frey and Rishard Matthews were picked in 2012, Duke Williams and Khalid Wooten were drafted in 2013 and Joel Bitonio was picked in 2014. It remains to this day as the greatest collection of talent ever on one roster in Wolf Pack history.