By all appearances, Oliver is leaning toward the NBA draft
May 5, 2017
Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .
Has Cam Oliver scored his last point, blocked his last shot, pulled down his last rebound and flashed his last smile for the Nevada Wolf Pack? It seems so. Oliver has told several media outlets that he plans on hiring an agent and giving up his final two years of college eligibility. But it hasn't happened yet. Oliver can still change his mind. After all, it was just last month, don't forget, that he said he would not hire an agent this spring. His decision will likely be based upon what happens at the NBA's draft combine in Chicago May 9-14. If he performs well, comes out of it in one piece mentally and physically and hears what he wants to hear, well, the Wolf Pack will lose the greatest all-around player to ever put on a silver and blue uniform.
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Oliver is still projected in most mock drafts on the internet as a second-round pick in the June 22 draft. But there must be some team telling him that they will pick him late in the first round. Why else would he give up even one glorious season of college basketball in a community that loves and adores him for a non-guaranteed second-round contract in the NBA? He can always get a non-guaranteed contract from the NBA. But that's not for us to decide. The bottom line is that this is a decision that only Oliver can make for himself. And there is no wrong decision. Even if he doesn't ever play a minute in the NBA, Oliver will play somewhere next year as a professional if he leaves Nevada. There are plenty of professional basketball jobs all around the world now. There are more jobs than legitimate players. And Oliver is without a doubt a legitimate player. He will get paid by someone.
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Let's hope that Oliver knows exactly what he will be giving up by leaving Nevada. There is no experience as joyful in the sport of basketball like the experience of playing Division I college basketball. At Nevada he is the silver and blue LeBron James. Lawlor Events Center is his world, his stage and the crowd falls in love with him each and every night he performs. The Wolf Pack, with Oliver, will be one of the best two dozen teams or so teams in the nation. Next year is the type of season (Mountain West Player of the Year, Mountain West championship, appearance in Sweet 16 or Elite 8) that college athletes dream about. It could be the best team in the school's 100-plus years of existence and Oliver could cement himself as the best player in school history. None of that stuff is going to happen in the NBA. What will happen in the NBA is that he will get paid. Let's hope it is about more than that for Oliver.
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Professional basketball will always be there for Oliver, be it this year, next year or whenever. That's not the issue. The young man has been blessed by the basketball Gods and he will definitely make a living dribbling, shooting and swatting basketballs. The decision he must make in the next month is all about timing. Is he going to be a better draft prospect right now or next year? The answer would seem to be next year. Oliver could actually cost himself money by leaving the Pack this year. He'll be bigger, stronger, more experienced and mature and a better player by this time next year than he is right now. Another year playing for Eric Musselman will never hurt any player. Odds are Oliver could be a lottery pick next year. Right now he is a fringe first-round pick. Maybe. Here's the deal. Usain Bolt might be the fastest runner on the planet but nobody would ever know it if he kept jumping the gun. We'll find out shortly if Oliver has heard the gun or is just being a little impatient.
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It took more than four years but we've finally figured out something that Brian Polian excelled in as the head football coach at Nevada. The uniforms. Polian spiced up the Pack's boring uniforms with sleek and stylish silver, blue and white jerseys and pants, white and blue helmets and a mirror Battle Born helmet that just might have been the best-looking helmet in the nation. Well, like all things connected to Polian, those days are over. New Pack coach Jay Norvell couldn't wait to dress the Pack in his state trooper mustache image and has changed the uniforms. Uneventful dark blue and white jerseys, with Nevada or Wolf Pack across the front above the numbers in block letters. Silver pants with Battle Born down the leg. Boring. Nothing fancy. They look like some generic football uniform you can buy around Halloween and stencil whichever name you'd like across the front. They are not bad. But they are very forgettable. It's change just for the sake of change. But that's what new coaches do.
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Another change that Norvell was quick to make this spring, it seems, is the quarterback. Former Alabama quarterback David Cornwell will run the offense this year and might end up being the top new player in the Mountain West this season. But you have to feel for Ty Gangi, who was the Pack's quarterback the final five games last year. Gangi played well, beating Utah State and UNLV, and if he was the quarterback from Day 1 last year Polian might still be the Pack's coach. But Polian is back at Notre Dame and Gangi is now back on the bench. A guy doesn't come from Alabama, after all, to stand on the sidelines at Nevada. There are a lot of teams that Gangi could start for in the Mountain West.
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A moment of silence for the pistol offense is now needed. It is dead, a relic of the past, tucked away in the trophy cases at Legacy Hall along with Marion Motley, Frank Hawkins, Rabbitt Bradshaw and Colin Kaepernick. Yes, we understand that Polian officially abandoned the pistol last year but with Gangi running and throwing like a poor man's Cody Fajardo and James Butler carrying the ball like Vai Taua, it still kind of looked like the pistol. Nothing the Pack does this year will look like the pistol. The Pack doesn't fire bullets anymore. They now drop bombs with the Air Raid offense. Cornwell will sit in the pocket and pick defenses clean with about four dozen quick and accurate passes a game. The only running he's likely to do by design will be to the end zone to celebrate with the wide receiver who just caught his touchdown pass.