Homecoming for Fenner | RecordCourier.com

Homecoming for Fenner

Darrell Moody
dmoody@nevadaappeal.com

Saint Mary's Joe Rahon, right, drives the ball against Nevada's D.J. Fenner during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Nov. 11, 2016, in Moraga, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

D.J. Fenner is going home, and he's pumped.

The Nevada senior forward-guard, who grew up in Seattle, is excited about returning to his hometown to take on the Washington Huskies at 5 p.m. Sunday (Pac-12 Network/94.3 FM) at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

"The first time I ever saw Nevada play was at UW," Fenner said Thursday afternoon. "Devonte (Burton) led the team to a win, and hopefully I can do the same thing. I remember I was sitting behind the UW bench because they didn't have seats (available) on Nevada's side, and Devonte dunked, and I was the only one on that side cheering. Somebody from UW complained that I was disrespecting the Huskies.

"I've got quite a few family member (attending). So far, I think it's 60. It's exciting coming home."

Fenner said he knows a few people associated with the Washington program, including head coach Lorenzo Romar.

"I've known coach Romar for a while," Fenner said. "He attended the same church I did when I was 5."

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Fenner had some interest from schools in the Pacific Northwest, but in the end he chose Nevada over Gonzaga, Washington State and Oregon.

It turned out to be a good move. Fenner has missed just one game in his three-plus year with the Pack, and his scoring, rebound, assists and steal numbers have gone up each season.

And, he is just 31 points shy of becoming the 26th player in Nevada history to reach the 1,000-point plateau.

Not surprisingly, he is enjoying a good season, and an important reason why Nevada is off to a 7-2 start.

The Nevada star, who is averaging 11.7 a game, is shooting an amazing 59.3 from 3-point range and 52,5 overall, both stats are career highs.

"His numbers are about as good as anybody in the country," Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. "He's here all the time (shooting); before class, at practice and at night. It's nothing my coaches have done."

Coming into the season, he was shooting 37 percent overall and 30 percent from beyond the arc in his first three seasons.

"Surprised? Not really," Fenner said. "I've done a lot of hard work on my jump shot. It's nice to see the numbers. Last year I started fast and then declined."

The biggest difference this year is that he's doing his damage as a sixth man. The only game he started was the season-opener off the bench. He is averaging more than 25 minutes a game.

"It's been an adjustment," Fenner admitted. " … I've started a lot of games here. At first it was much more difficult. I had a lot of people in my corner giving me advice. At times I play better coming off the bench than I would if I started. Helping the team win is more important to me.

"I don't get in there and just think score, score, score. I get in there, get warm and start playing my game. I know how to put the ball in the hole. I can do a lot of things on the floor."

A mature attitude to be sure, but anybody who knows Fenner wouldn't expect him to ever put himself first.

In fact, when Elijah Foster left the team for legal reasons, Musselman had a spot to fill. Most close to the team thought he would insert Fenner back into the starting line-up, but the second-year head coach opted to go with Josh Hall only after he talked with Fenner.

"We were in a team meeting and he brought it up," Fenner said. "I have a lot of confidence in Josh, and he played well the first game he started. I just want to win. I just go out there and do my job."

Musselman has made no secret of the fact that he likes to have some firepower come off the bench, and with Fenner he gets that.

"I told D.J. that if he wasn't comfortable with it (Hall starting) that I would start him," Musselman said. "He said that he wanted to do what was best for the team.

"He has an unbelievable attitude, and I like looking down the bench knowing I have somebody who can score. This is good for him and our team. He plays more (sometimes) than if he were starting."