Nevada’s third-year coach continues to corner transfer market
Eric Musselman has a plan. He’s not straying from it.
After taking Nevada to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a decade and flirting with Cal, eventually agreeing to an extension, Musselman completed the 2017 recruiting class on Wednesday afternoon. All three of the classes Musselman has put together in Reno have a common denominator. Transfers.
Ten of the 13 scholarship players projected to be on the 2017-18 roster are Div. I transfers.
All four scholarships Musselman’s staff handed out over the last week went to transfers who will be ineligible for the upcoming 2017-18 season. John Jones, son of Nevada’s newest assistant coach, Johnny Jones, will walk with the Wolf Pack. He’s the lone freshman in the class.
Jazz Johnson, a 5-10 sophomore guard from the University of Portland, rounded out the class on Wednesday. Johnson started all 33 games for the Pilots this winter, averaging 15.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game while connecting on 41.5 percent of his shots from deep.
“I’m really excited to join the Nevada Wolf Pack,” Johnson said in a release from the school. “I was very impressed with Coach Musselman’s background and the Nevada basketball coaching staff’s player development. I really loved getting to know the players and am really excited to play in front of great crowds at Lawlor Events Center. The new Ramon Sessions practice site is something I look forward to working out in.”
In an early season loss at UCLA, Johnson scored 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting, 4-of-7 from three-point land.
Johnson has two years of eligibility.
— NOLIMIT.JA22 (@Jazz_Johnson22) May 3, 2017
Nisré Zouzoua, a 6-2 sophomore shooting guard out of Bryant University, gave his commitment to Nevada on Tuesday. Zouzoua was one of the highest scoring players in the nation this winter, averaging 20.3 points per game, which was good for the 34th in all of college basketball, and shot at a 36.7 percent clip from beyond the arc.
Zouzua led the Northeast Conference with 92 made three-point baskets.
He scored a career-high 31 points at Brown, the former home of to-be senior forward Leland King. Zouzoua has two years of eligibility.
“We are so excited to add a player like Nisré to our program,” Musselman said. “He ranked 34th in the country in points per game and shot an impressive 37 percent from three. He is a dynamic player that can really score the ball from all three levels. Even more important, he is an extremely high character young man that will fit in with our current players right away.”
Marqueze Letcher-Ellis, a 6-7 sophomore forward out of Rice, locked in to Nevada on Friday. Letcher-Ellis is a standout athlete who averaged 8.9 points and 4.9 rebounds in two seasons with the Owls. He figures to be a key component to a potentially loaded frontcourt in the 2018-19 campaign.
“I fell in love with the players and coaching staff during my visit to campus and knew Nevada was the place for me before I left campus,” Letcher-Ellis said. “I knew this would be the perfect environment for me to thrive during my player development year.”
As a freshman, he blocked 36 shots – tied for sixth-most in Rice history and second-most ever by a freshman. Like Johnson and Zouzoua, Letcher-Ellis has two years of eligibility.
Tra’Shawn Thurman, a 6-7 junior forward from Omaha, started the cascade of transfers on Thursday. Thurman is a tank in the paint and averaged 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds as a junior for the Mavericks.
He scored 17 points and pulled in nine rebounds in a 98-89 upset road win over Iowa State – the squad that bounced Nevada from the NCAA Tournament.
“He is the perfect fit for what we are trying to do on both ends of the floor,” Musselman said. “We love his versatility, ability to rebound the ball, and toughness.”
Thurman is the lone transfer signee with one year of eligibility left.
As it stands, Nevada sits at 13 scholarship players, the maximum number allotted by the NCAA. The total could potentially drop depending on the uncertain future of junior big man Elijah Foster. The Seattle native was enjoying a breakout first month of the season before getting arrested in late November and charged with domestic battery.
The charge was later dropped as he plead guilty to a lesser charge. He remains on the team’s roster.
Four transfers will gain eligibility this winter: Kendall Stephens (a 6-7 senior shooting guard from Purdue), Caleb and Cody Martin (6-7 twin junior forwards from North Carolina State) and Hallice Cook (a 6-3 senior guard from Iowa State).