RENO - When you talk about bad breaks, look no farther than Nevada sophomore Marcelus Kemp.
Kemp has been on the Nevada campus for three seasons, and has only one season to show for it.
The 6-foot-5 shooting guard broke his foot between the end of his senior season at Garfield High School in Seattle and the time he enrolled at Nevada, costing him the 2002-03 season. Last summer he was practicing shooting, landed wrong and tore his ACL, forcing him to the sidelines yet again.
Kemp, who last played in the 2003-04 season and averaged 4.6 points per game, has worked hard at rehabbing his knee, and no longer has to wear a brace. He is looking forward to Thursday night (7:05 p.m.) when the Pack plays Rockhurst University, a Division II school, in an exhibition game at Lawlor Events Center.
"It's 100 percent," Kemp said before a recent practice. "The doctors cleared me from wearing the brace a few days ago and said it was strong enough to go. When I came down wrong on my foot (last summer), I didn't know that it was serious. It felt kind of funny after a couple of days and then I went to see the doctors.
"I'm just happy to be back and healthy. It was disappointing (to miss last year), but the team did play great without me. If they had me, they might have gone a little farther."
According to school officials, Kemp can get back last year's eligibility if he continues to make good progress toward graduation, and he is on track academically.
There is nobody happier to see him back than Nevada coach Mark Fox.
"You don't see any signs that he was even injured," Fox said. "He's probably not as athletic as he was, but he's not 17 years old either. He worked hard in June, July, August and September. He's in great shape."
Besides the depth Kemp gives Nevada at guard, he could help out at small forward.
"I might actually play a 3," Kemp said. "Coach said he might rotate me in there. It depends on what the other team is doing."
Fox said the move would be predicated on defensive matchups and nothing more.
Another plus is Kemp's return gives the Pack another legitimate 3-point threat. For those of you with short memories, Nevada was next to last in Division I-A in 3-point percentage, shooting 27 percent. Kemp could shoot 27 percent in his sleep. Fox is hoping that Kemp and newcomer Dennis Ikovlev will stop teams from running two or three defenders at 6-11 forward Nick Fazekas.
Now, Kemp will have to mesh on the floor with a lot of new teammates. There are six players on the current roster who have never appeared in a game with Kemp.
That process started during the summer on Nevada's 10-day, 5-game trip to Italy. It gave Kemp a chance to play again and play for Fox, who was the associate head coach the last time Kemp was active.
"For me it was important to see where my knee was; see if I could still play," Kemp said. "I found out I could still go. I knew coach Fox had changed. He's a little more vocal than I expected, but he's still the same guy."
If there is a part of Kemp's game that he struggled with after the injury, it's defense. That's a big deal at Nevada. If you can't play defense, you can't play, and Kemp knows that.
"With the brace on, I felt slow; sluggish," Kemp said. "It was hard to play defense. Now that the knee is strong again, I feel like I can guard anybody. I'm working on little mechanical things. I'm starting to get a little quicker (on defense)."
Fox said Kemp is making progress at that end of the floor.
"He's working through it," Fox said.
And, knowing Kemp, he will succeed. Another trip to the postseason would certainly wipe out any frustration from last year.
n Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1281