Nevada's Kenan Blackshear shoots while being guarded by SDSU's Keshad Johnson (0) and Joshua Tomaic at Lawlor Events Center in Reno on March 5, 2022.

Nevada opens season with new players and renewed energy

The Nevada men’s basketball team is coming off the first losing season since 2014-15, but the players — and coach Steve Alford — say that is in the past.

The Wolf Pack finished 6-12 in the Mountain West last season, in eighth place, and 13-18 overall for just the second losing season in Alford’s 27-year career as a coach.

Will Baker, who returns from last season and will be a redshirt junior, averaged 11.5 points and 4.9 rebounds.

“That was tough the way last season ended. We have a lot of motivation going into this year,” Baker said. “There’s a lot that we learned, for one, just staying together and playing through adversity. Learning how to communicate with each other.”

Nevada coach Steve Alford coach scratches his head after a turnover in Tuesday's game against Eastern Washington at Lawlor Events Center on Nov. 9, 2021

The Wolf Pack opened practice on Friday and talk centered around learning from the disappointing result last season as well as how the newcomers will be counted on immediately.

Jarod Lucas, who transferred from Oregon State, will likely be the starting point guard, and Hunter McIntosh, from Elon, is also expected to contribute right away.

Nevada had to replace three key players who left via the transfer portal: Desmond Cambridge Jr. (Arizona State), Warren Washington (Arizona State) and Grant Sherfield (Oklahoma). Those three combined to average 45.8 points, 15.9 rebounds and 9.1 assists per game.

The Wolf Pack also added transfers Tyler Powell (Seton Hall); Michael Folarin (Eastern Washington); Darion Williams, who played at Bishop Gorman last season; and high school recruits Trey Pettigrew; John Flannigan and Snookey Wigington.

The Pack returns six letter-winners in 2022-23, including starters Will Baker, the team’s leading returning scorer and rebounder at 11.5 points and 4.9 rebounds per game while shooting 54.6 from the field and 39.4 percent from 3-point range; and guard Kenan Blackshear, who averaged 8.1 points while passing out 2.68 assists per contest.

Oregon's Jacob Young (42) drives against Oregon State's Jarod Lucas (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the first round of the Pac-12 Wednesday tournament, March 9, 2022, in Las Vegas.

Alford said rebuilding the team is “incredibly exciting. The journey starts today.”

Alford said he was not the leader he needed to be last season. He added that having six games canceled or postponed hurt the Pack’s development as Nevada played just four games from Nov. 30 – Jan. 12 last season.

Alford said the team has good chemistry now coming out of the offseason.

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