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.”
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.
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.
He told the players on Friday, “Now the competition starts. You’re fighting for playing time. You’re fighting for roles. So as those things happen, do we stay close? Do we stay trusting one another? Do we separate? “
Alford was optimistic on Friday, saying the Wolf Pack should be a contender for the league title and that the team last year was close to the top teams in the league
“I’d be really shocked if we didn’t respond and battle to win games and battle for championships.” Alford said.
Nevada opens the season Oct. 21 with an exhibition against Cal State East Bay; then hosts Utah Tech on Nov. 7.
The Wolf Pack will have an open practice that the public is invited to at 4 pm Friday (Oct. 7) at Lawlor Events Center.
2022-23 Nevada men’s basketball schedule (times TBD unless noted)
- Friday, Oct. 21 – Cal State East Bay (Exhibition)
- Monday, Nov. 7 – Utah Tech
- Saturday, Nov. 12 – Grand Canyon
- Tuesday, Nov. 15 – William Jessup
- Friday, Nov. 18 – at UT Arlington
- 2022 Cayman Islands Classic (Nov. 21-23)
- Monday, Nov. 21 – vs. Tulane – 2 p.m.
- Tuesday, Nov. 22 – vs. Rhode Island/Kansas State
- Wednesday, Nov. 24 – vs. TBD
- Monday, Nov. 28 – Sam Houston State
- Saturday, Dec. 3 – at LMU
- Tuesday, Dec. 6 – at Pepperdine
- Saturday, Dec. 10 – at Oregon
- Wednesday, Dec. 14 – UC San Diego
- Wednesday, Dec. 21 – Norfolk State
- Wednesday, Dec. 28 – Boise State *
- Saturday, Dec. 31 – at Air Force *
- Tuesday, Jan. 3 – Colorado State*
- Saturday, Jan. 7 – at San Jose State *
- Tuesday, Jan. 10 – at San Diego State*
- Saturday, Jan. 14-Utah State*
- Tuesday, Jan. 17 – at Boise State*
- Tuesday, Jan. 24 – New Mexico *
- Saturday, Jan. 28 – at UNLV*
- Tuesday, Jan. 31-San Diego State*
- Saturday, Feb. 4-Air Force*
- Tuesday, Feb. 7 – at New Mexico*
- Saturday, Feb. 11 – Fresno State*
- Saturday, Feb. 18 – at Utah State*
- Tuesday, Feb. 21 – San Jose State*
- Saturday, Feb. 25 – at Fresno State*
- Tuesday, Feb. 28 – at Wyoming *
- Saturday, March 4 – UNLV *
- *Mountain West Contest
Jim Krajewski covers high school and youth sports for the Reno Gazette Journal. Follow him on Twitter @RGJPreps. Support his work by subscribing to RGJ.com.