Nevada Wolf Pack
Overall Rank: #70
Conference Rank: #3 WAC
2006-07: 29-5, 14-2, 1st
2006-07 postseason: NCAA
If Marcelus Kemp would have kept his name in the draft, Nevada would have their entire starting five from last season playing professionally. But, luckily for the Wolf Pack, Kemp has returned to Reno and is ready to lead the team back to the post season. Kemp averaged 18.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists during the 2006-2007 season. He is a great long range shooter, but it may be extremely difficult for Kemp to be as effective when the defenses are keying in on him.
The big name is Nick Fazekas, but the absence of Ramon Sessions, Kyle Shiloh and Denis Ikovlev will not help the Wolf Pack return to the NCAA Tournament. Fazekas dominated the WAC, averaging 20.4 points, 11.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks during his senior season. Ikovlev proved to be a nice option next to Fazekas and could step outside and stretch the defense. Sessions was the smart point guard who did an admirable job finding all the scoring options and added 12.3 points per contest. Like nearly everybody else, Shiloh was a good scorer and an efficient shooter from long range.
With four starters gone, the battle for playing time will be fierce and the newcomers will be given the opportunity to make a big impact. Demarshay Johnson missed last season, but earned 16 starts as a junior during the 2005-2006 campaign. The 6-9 forward averaged 5.0 points and 4.2 rebounds during that season and should regain his starting position at power forward. Walk-on Adam Carp, another redshirt, will add some emergency depth to the frontcourt. Guard Ray Kraemer averaged 18.0 points and 8.3 rebounds two years ago at Weatherford College in Texas. He missed his sophomore season at the junior college level due to a shoulder injury, but Kraemer has the potential to pick up some of the scoring slack left behind by the departed players. Combo guard Armon Johnson is the most intriguing newcomer. Johnson is an amazing scorer, but will likely be the backup point guard for now. If the 6-3 Reno product can continue his production at the collegiate level, he will be starting somewhere in the backcourt sooner than later. Small forward Malik Cooke is a good athlete and will help out immediately on the glass.
Who to Watch:
There are some returning players besides Kemp, but most of them were tucked away on the bench. Lyndale Burleson and Brandon Fields could be starting in the backcourt. Burleson has proven to be an effective point guard after averaging 2.2 assists and less than one turnover per game as a sophomore. Now as an upperclassman, Burleson will have to develop into a team leader and show Coach Mark Fox that he can run the show for the entire game, not just a few minutes when Sessions needs a rest. Fields never had much of an opportunity to show his stuff during his freshman campaign, but he is a decent scorer and will play a much bigger role this year.
The frontcourt has a bevy of young bodies with sophomores JaVale McGee, Tyrone Hanson and Matt LaGrone. McGee, a 6-11 forward, saw the most action of the group last year and is expected to play a big role in the frontcourt. He is long and lanky and will be a major presence under the basket on the defensive end of the floor. David Ellis, a 7-1 senior, saw increased playing time last season, but has yet to develop into a significant contributor. At the least, he is another big body off the bench who can block shots and eat up fouls, but with a little consistency in the scoring department, Ellis can be more than a roleplayer. It is hard to tell exactly what Nevada has to give this year. There is talent on the roster, but outside of Kemp, nobody is a proven player. If the team comes together, the postseason awaits. If not, it will be a long, cold winter in Reno.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Lyndale Burleson, Junior, Guard, 1.7 points per game
Brandon Fields, Sophomore, Guard, 2.1 points per game
Marcelus Kemp, Senior, Guard, 18.5 points per game
Demarshay Johnson, Senior, Forward, DNP last season
JaVale McGee, Sophomore, Forward, 3.3 points per game