After a few rough years in the Carter era, we were all relieved and a more than a little anxious when Coach Eric Musselman came in last year. Those of us who have been avid fans for the long hall wondered if this one man (and his huge staff) could turn a disastrous team around. Musselman more than calmed our fears, taking the team from going 9-22 in the 2014/2015 season to 24-14 with a CBI championship last season. And as much as this city and the team applaud last year, this year we all want much, much more.
· What To Look Forward To:
Last season exceeded all of our expectations, from the breakout of Cameron Oliver, to the gritty, get it done player that was Tyron Criswell. Musselman upped the pace of the team, which made the games all the more fun to watch. Criswell and Coleman graduated, which was a loss, but this team should arguably be even better than last year’s. There’s a solid base in returning players: Oliver, Fenner, Drew, and Foster. There’s also a lot to look forward in those that will finally get to play this season: Marcus Marshall, Jordan Caroline, and Leland King. Per transfer rules, they all sat out last season, which gives them a different perspective of the game. And of course, the freshman Devearl Ramsey and Josh Hall should bring a lot to this season too.
This year’s team also comes with almost an entirely revamped coaching staff. And while last year’s staff was excellent, nobody can argue against adding former UNLV coach Dave Rice. Rice brings years of experience, he’s the calm to Mussleman’s crazy, and let’s be honest, we’re all pretty excited to rub this in the face of Rebels. The addition of Yanni Hufnagel brought along lots of controversy, but I trust Muss to make good decisions with what’s best for the team, and I think the fans should too. Hufnagel has been an assistant coach for a long time, including coaching at schools like Harvard and Berkeley. Returning coach Anthony Ruta and former NBA player Ronald Dupree should also bring excellent insight into this coaching staff.
The team also has a new court and a new scoreboard this year, along with a new training facility coming. (Thanks Ramon Sessions!) Good things are in the Pack’s future.
· Things To Be Wary Of:
This year’s team has a lot of hype, and although a lot of the players have said that doesn’t affect their game, we know that men in college let things go to their head even if they don’t mean to. The Mountain West ranked Nevada second in their preseason poll, which is pretty impressive. With Cameron Oliver getting honors from all different places and the whole town talking about Marcus Marshall, this team has a lot of pressure on it to succeed. Players are talking about the NCAA tournament, and while we all want that dream to be a reality, this team will crumble fast if their heads get too big.
Superstar Cameron Oliver entered his name into the draft this last spring, got great feedback, and wisely decided to return to college ball. Oliver put up a very impressive season last year, and continued to get better throughout the post season. Word on the street is that he’s progressed even more during the off-season. This, of course, is all to our advantage this year. But there’s no guarantee that Oliver won’t go off to bigger and better things next year. And, on that note, this town has to make sure we keep Muss here too. Musselman taking this job in the first place was nothing short of a miracle, and with his low salary (the second lowest in the Mountain West), it won’t be easy to keep him around much longer.
· Let’s Not Forget:
No team is made up of just stars, so I feel it’s important to mention players that weren’t before. David Cunningham, Charlie Tooley, John Carlson, Collin Weaver, and David Kyle all add depth to a team that only has nine players on scholarship this year. With transfers like the Martin twins and Kendall Stevens not eligible to play until next season, the Pack will need to look at walk-ons to help them out in tight spots. It’s rare for a team to have five walk-on players, but after last year’s performances by Juwan Anderson and David Cunningham, who wouldn’t want to add more of a good thing?
· The Game:
This year’s solo exhibition game takes place at Lawlor tonight, Friday, November 4th, at 7 p.m. Unlike previous exhibition games, this one costs $5. However, rather than gripe, let’s keep in mind how much we want to keep Muss around for as long as we can. The exhibition game is free for season ticket holders (which I encourage you all to become), and they usually serve cheaper beer and hotdogs. Tonight’s game might not be an “official” game, but trust me, it’ll be worth coming to.
An afterthought: I personally don’t think four year senior DJ Fenner has gotten enough hype this pre-season. Fenner had an excellent season, making 80 percent of his free throws and being the team’s top returning scorer. Not to mention, I think there’s something to be said for sticking out all four years at one school, especially when it wasn’t all easy. Keep an eye out for him this season, he’s sure to impress.
editors note - this story is written by Hannah Campbell but she is not yet added to the list of authors.