Nevada Wolf Pack headed in the right direction

MILWAUKEE – It has been less than 48 hours since Iowa State snapped Nevada’s nine-game win streak and sent the Wolf Pack back to Northern Nevada.

Disappointment reigned supreme, and there were some tears shed in the locker room. That was to be expected. Once the disappointment wanes, however, the Nevada players and coaches will look back at what they accomplished.

To go from a nine-win team a couple of years ago to 52 wins, a CBI championship, a Mountain West regular and postseason championship, and a trip to the NCAA is incredible. It shows Eric Musselman has the program pointed in the right direction.

“We’re proud of what we did,” Musselman said. “We’re all hurting. The players didn’t want the seasion to end, the coaching staff didn’t want the season to end. But again, you have to give credit to the better team. And, I think the future of the program is in great shape when you think about the development of all the young guys that we have and their development and growth.

“Jordan Caroline really stood up (versus Iowa State), and Josh (Hall) and Lindsey (Drew). These are all young guys who gained valuable experience. And, when you haven’t been in this situation, you know, experience really matters.”

One of the big stars of this season’s run to the NCAA was Marcus Marshall, who came to Nevada to win a title and make the NCAA. Mission accomplished.

“Obviously we felt like we had a good season,” Marshall said. “We turned it around in two years, which is great. We can use the season as a building block for guys in the future; for the underclassmen that are coming back. I was happy to be a part of it and share the success with the team as years go on.”

Before you start shedding tears for Nevada, look at the roster. The Pack has plenty of experience coming back for the 2017-18 season.

Nevada had two freshmen, five sophomores, two juniors and two seniors (D.J. Fenner and Marcus Marshall) on its roster this year. Replacing Marshall and Fenner, who combined to average nearly 34 points a game won’t be easy. And, it won’t be easy to replace Cam Oliver if he decides to leave for the pros. That would be a big loss, especially at the offensive end. Oliver has a skill set that many 6-8 players simply don’t possess.

Musselman has four D1 transfers who sat the bench this season — Kendall Stevens from Purdue, Cody and Caleb Martin from N.C. State and Hallice Cooke from Iowa State.

Cody Martin averaged 3.4 as a freshman and 6.0 points per game as a sophomore. He shot 46.7 from the field. He will have two years left. Ditto for Caleb Martin, who averaged 11.5 points and 4.7 rebounds a game during his sophomore season. He averaged 30 minutes a game. A good long-range shooter, Stevens led the Boilermakers with 73 3s as a sophomore. He averaged 6.1 a game and shot 32 percent from 3. Cooke figures to give Nevada a solid back-up guard behind Drew. He averaged 2.6 at Iowa State in the 2015-16 season.

Out of that group will come the replacements for Marshall and Fenner. If anything, the Pack will be longer and even more athletic.

Another key could be whether the team decides to reinstate 6-8 Elijah Foster, who was arrested on domestic battery charges, which were later dropped. He’s a solid defender and big rebounder, two things Nevada can use anytime, but especially if Cameron Oliver leaves.

The biggest question is whether Musselman will be around next year. He has three years left on his contract, but he’s considered a candidate for openings at Cal, LSU and Washington. All three are places where he can make a lot more money.

Musselman likely will get a new contract if he wants to stay, and it will be interesting to see if he wants to finish what he started.

Nevada should take time to savor what it just accomplished, because it was something special.

“We didn’t get the result we wanted, but you know it was a great season,” Caroline said.

And, with a little bit of luck, more may be on the way.


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