In late March, Nevada basketball nearly turned on its head, when coach Eric Musselman emerged as a serious candidate for the Cal job. He eventually withdrew from consideration, and the Wolf Pack offseason has since soared.
The first success came in Nevada’s two 2016-17 stars, Cameron Oliver and Marcus Marshall. Marshall was a scoring machine for the Wolf Pack this past season with 19.7 points per game and 38 percent shooting from behind the arc, while Oliver scored 16.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. Though Musselman didn’t directly recruit either of these guys, they both made names for themselves when he was the coach. Oliver’s appearance at the NBA combine and Marshall’s solid effort in the Portsmouth Invitational are strong reflections on the program.
Then there’s the transfer market. Musselman has brought in a mix of brand names and hidden gems at a rate that few, if any, coaches in the country can match.
From the Power 5 world, there’s Caleb and Cody Martin from NC State, along with Kendall Stephens from Purdue and Hallice Cooke from Iowa State. All came in and sat out last year. Caleb Martin averaged 11.5 points per game at NC State to Cody’s six points, with both being solid rebounders as well. Stephens and Cooke both have range behind the arc, each hovering around 35 percent from three.
In terms of non-Power 5 players, Nevada is gaining an abundance of future talent that will sit out 2017-18. Teams like Wichita State and Illinois State were in hot pursuit of Marquez Letcher-Ellis. Ultimately, Nevada won the race because Ellis wanted to rejoin his high-school friend, Josh Hall. Jazz Johnson (15.8 ppg for Portland) will be a huge asset to the Wolf Pack backcourt. He chose Nevada because of the school’s support for the up-and-coming program.
In an interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal, he described the atmosphere around the team:
“With Nevada, it’s a community thing. There’s no professional teams. They’re basically the show of the town and the town really supports them. That’s what I love about it.”
He will have two more years of eligibility and will provide a spark as a 40 percent three-point shooter.
Tre’Shawn Thurman and Nisre Zouzoua are even less known, but could be equally exciting. Thurman (13.8 points, 7.8 rebounds) from Omaha will only have a year of eligibility left, and once he refines his mid-range game, he could become a star. Zouzoua is the high scorer of the bunch, with 20.3 points per game for Bryant last year. His defense is a little choppy, but his scoring potential is huge.
Thurman, Zouzoua, Johnson, and Letcher-Ellis will all have a year to work with the Nevada staff — one that Musselman himself has been developing. This year, he brought in former LSU head coach Johnny Jones as an assistant.
Turnover is high in Reno, but hey, fans love their college’s team. Attendance topped the 8,000 mark and the newly upgraded Ramon Sessions Basketball Performance Center is a huge selling point for recruits. As former Wolf Pack star Sessions said himself in an interview with The Reno Gazette-Journal:
“Once I got [to Reno] I never wanted to leave. Summer time, I would only leave for a week or two, but the people in the community embraced us so well...I remember fans sleeping over at Lawlor trying to get into the game. That’s where it’s getting back to now with the crowds and its an exciting time to be in the Wolf Pack family.”
Indeed it is.