Coming off the most successful season in school history, Nevada now has something more to prove -- that last year's run into the Sweet 16 was the sign of a blossoming program rather than the spurt of one great team led by one great player.
It's certainly easier said than done. The Wolf Pack lost the two main components of the 25-9 team that knocked off Michigan State and Gonzaga before losing to Georgia Tech in the round of 16. Neither departure was that much of a surprise -- WAC Player of the Year Kirk Snyder gave up his senior season for the NBA Draft (No. 16 overall to Utah) and WAC Coach of the Year Trent Johnson bolted to Stanford to replace one-time mentor Mike Montgomery. Mark Fox, the top assistant under Johnson for the last four seasons, is now at the helm, and the good news is that there is still plenty of talent to work with.
A pair of frontcourt starters return in forward Kevinn Pinkney and center Nick Fazekas. Pinkney should see more of a scoring role this year, while Fazekas, a member of the WAC All-Newcomer Team last year, is on his way to becoming a dominant player in the league. Jermaine Washington, a 6-foot-5 small forward, is a hustle player who played a solid role last year and should see increased time this season.
But the backcourt does have question marks with the loss of Snyder, point guard Todd Okeson and wing Garry Hill-Thomas. Marcelus Kemp got significant minutes down the stretch last year and should claim a starting role. Kyle Shiloh needs to step up at the point.
There is backcourt help coming in, however. Mo Charlo might eventually replace Snyder's scoring production. The 6-7 swingman was a two-time all-state selection at Diablo Valley (Calif.) College, where he averaged 18.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game as a sophomore. The Pack also inked Lyndale Burleson, a point guard from Seattle who is the younger brother of former Nevada football star Nate Burleson.
In the frontcourt, Nevada has some serious size in Chad Bell, a 7-0 transfer from New Mexico, and freshman David Ellis, a 7-footer from Sacramento's Capital Christian High School.
There may be a few rough patches with the coaching transition, but there is plenty of talent in Reno. This year, Nevada will prove it has a program, not just one great team.