A year ago about this time the Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball program had an expensive coach and little else. Here we are, in April 2020, and the Pack seemingly has enough talent for two teams. Yes, right now, the Pack roster looks like Jalen Harris and a bunch of guys who should be wearing question marks on their jerseys instead of numbers. But Harris, one of the top scorers in the nation a year ago at 21.6 a game, is a great place to start. Basketball recruits can start to sign National Letters of Intent once again on April 15 (the signing period has been extended to Aug. 1) but the Wolf Pack already has enough talent to sort out, nurture and develop for the next two, three or even four years. Newcomers next year will be Desmond Cambridge, Khristion Courseault and Warren Washington, who all practiced with the team last year and sat out because of transfer rules. Washington is a 7-foot load of talent that played at Oregon State two years ago. Cambridge is a big-time scorer who nearly reached 1,000 career points (939) in just two seasons at Brown and Courseault is a versatile 6-foot-2 package who played a season at Pasadena City College. And that’s not all. The Pack has also added transfer Grant Sherfield from Wichita State (who must sit out 2020-21 before playing his final three years at Nevada) and freshman recruits Tre Coleman (6-foot-6), Je’Lani Clark (6-3), Alem Huseinovic (6-3), Daniel Foster (6-6) and DeAndre Henry (6-8). It didn’t take long for Steve Alford to make this program his own.
The 6-foot-2 Sherfield averaged 8.1 points, three rebounds and 2.9 assists for Wichita State in 2018-19 and is likely the surest thing Alford has brought to Nevada. He scored 14 points against both Oklahoma and SMU. He had 15 points and 11 rebounds against Abilene Christian and, like Harris, is from Texas (Fort Worth). Alford once signed him for UCLA. Sherfield got out of that commitment when Alford was fired, went to Wichita State and now has followed Alford to Nevada. Coleman, like Alford in the 1980s, is one of the best players out of the state of Indiana. Clark is one of the best high school players in Northern California. Henry, who turned down Division I football offers to concentrate on basketball, is one of the toughest and most physical players in the western United States (Phoenix). Huseinovic, from Scottsdale, Ariz., by way of Bosnia, and Foster, from Napa by way of Australia, will give the Pack a world of experience and grit.
Don’t forget Zane Meeks, K.J. Hymes, Kane Milling and Robby Robinson, who all played important roles for last season’s 19-win team. Robinson, a junior next year, is a hard-working role player in the paint. Meeks, Milling and Hymes were all freshmen last year and all showed brief flashes of brilliance. The 6-10 Hymes only needs to grow into his body and should team with Washington next year to give the Pack as dominating a paint presence as you will find in the Mountain West. Meeks, at 6-9 with a shooting guard’s touch, is a match-up nightmare. And the 6-4 Milling, who once played in France, is a talented shooter who can score as soon as he steps past mid-court.
Last year’s Wolf Pack won 19 games with Harris and, well, a bunch of supporting pieces. The freshmen, as expected, were erratic. Jazz Johnson and Lindsey Drew weren’t as aggressive as they needed to be at times. The bench had Nisre Zouzoua and a bunch of grab-bag surprises. And there wasn’t much defense inside the 3-point arc by anyone. If Harris wasn’t scoring 30 or more points the Pack was in jeopardy of losing to anybody and they did just that, losing to No. 11 seed Wyoming in the Mountain West tournament. Harris might take most of the shots once again next season but on the rare night when his shot isn’t falling Alford might suggest to him that he pass the ball once in a while.
Alford has not tried to hide the fact that he intends to make the Wolf Pack another New Mexico. That is understandable since Alford enjoyed tremendous success with the Lobos in the Mountain West from 2007-13 and there seem to be similarities between the two programs. One of the things Alford has now brought to Reno that he might have learned at New Mexico was the Australian talent pool. Foster, who played last season for Golden State Preparatory School in Napa, grew up in Perth and Melbourne. He is not the first Australian-born player to ever play for Alford. Alford had Cameron Bairstow and Hugh Greenwood at New Mexico. Bairstow was a 6-9, 250-pound beast and Greenwood was a versatile, tough 6-3 guard who did a little bit of everything (like Foster). Both ended their Lobo careers playing for Craig Neal, who is now an Alford assistant at Nevada.
Henry, from Arizona like Hymes and Huseinovic, is an intriguing and exciting prospect. And he might have the biggest upside of all the new Pack players. With football scholarship offers from Arizona State and Kansas State, and interest from schools like Arizona and even Alabama, Henry decided to give up football for basketball after his sophomore year in high school. “It was hard turning down the Alabama head coach but God had a plan in basketball for me,” Henry told pypeline.com last September when he committed to the Pack. Henry devoted himself to basketball, physically, mentally and spiritually, going from 260 pounds to 220. He also got basketball offers from Loyola Marymount, Loyola Chicago, Air Force, Northern Arizona and Grand Canyon but picked the Pack. “He’s one of the hardest-working kids in Arizona,” said his high school coach Kirk Fauske (to azcentral.com). “He played with a chip on his shoulder to prove he could play Division I basketball.” Henry, it seems, just might be another Jordan Caroline, who turned out to be one of the toughest, most physical and hardest-working Pack players in history from 2016-19. “My goal is to be remembered and be an inspiration to everyone,” Henry said.
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