Nevada’s to-be third year coach talks offseason, recruiting
Nevada men’s basketball coach Eric Musselman’s team hasn’t played a game in nearly five months, but his program has stayed in the headlines.
The highest paid coach in school history joined the Nathan Shoup Show on ESPN Radio 94.5 FM last Friday to talk about the busy offseason.
Part one can be found here. Here is Part II of the conversation:
Coach, you got a late commitment this year in June from St. John’s senior grad transfer Darien Williams. Now, he’s the biggest player on the roster at 6-8, 235 pounds. He’s a big boy. How important was it to get someone like him in? Because you’re a team that’s maybe being perceived as being position-less, you don’t have that true big man.
Well, if we could go backwards to the day I got the job, there was a lot of big guys. And they were coming off nine wins. It was one of the most imbalanced rosters I’ve ever seen. There were actually five players that played basically the five spot. So, it’s not about size. It’s about quality of player.
We feel like we have great versatility (with) Darien and Elijah (Foster). Elijah Foster has played basically only the five spot and has done a really good job in his time at Nevada as a center. So, we don’t look at it as a weakness at all.
Obviously, Darien is a guy that is going to play that spot as well. So, we have what we consider two guys that have decent athleticism, that can rebound the ball. Elijah is a very good mid-range shooter and now you add Darien, who has proven, not at St. John’s, but has proven in junior college to be an excellent three-point shooter. So, we feel really good about that position.
This also happened (recently). The school announced that Ron Dupree is getting called to the show, joining the NBA, so you’re going to have an entirely new staff of assistants again this year … What sort of impact does that have on your program in trying to recruit prep players and has that thrust you, maybe, into a more significant role recruiting those kids?
It’s not just us. It’s everywhere across the country. The head coach is the guy that’s got to take the brunt of recruiting as far as trying to close guys. And we feel like, you know, we’ve only been here two years and when you look at the incoming freshmen we’ve had, Cam Oliver, Lindsey Drew and Josh Hall, those three guys we’ll put up against any three guys in the last two years that have suited up in the Mountain West. That’s how strong we feel our incoming freshman are.
You add in the fact our sole purpose was looking, not for guards, but for big guys, and there wasn’t a big that we felt was good enough to play on this team in the high school ranks in this year’s class. So we decided to hold scholarships until we found the guys that would be the right fit. The one thing everyone in college athletics is understanding, is today’s recruiting world is a lot different than what it used to be.
When I went to college, it used to be nobody transferred. Now, there’s going to be 800 transfers. It’s across the board in sports and basketball is as high as any. So, you have to change the way you recruit. Again, we feel like we’ve had, in two years, three really good freshmen. Some great transfers that have provided great excitement in our own building and done great academically. So, we feel good where we’re at.
We’re probably going to be one of the preseason favorites, whether it’s No. 1, 2 or 3. Last year, we won the league. Year one, we felt like we really overachieved as a program. So, we feel really good where we’re at and we’re going to continue to work on a daily basis and (new assistant) Gus (Argenal) is going to do a great job for us.
Obviously, Johnny Jones who’s been a head coach at LSU, we’re more than lucky to have coach Jones. We knew going into last year, coach Dupree came highly recommended by NBA friends. We knew there was a chance once he gained some coaching experience on the floor that he could get an NBA opportunity. We are extremely excited about one of our coaches like coach Dupree going on to the NBA.
And Dave Rice got a great opportunity to go to Washington, a power five, Pac-12 school. Part of our thing as coaches, a lot of the people I worked for, I worked up the latter because I did a good job for them. Then those guys promoting me. My biggest advocate growing as a coach was Chuck Daly. Coach Daly helped me get other jobs that paid more and were perceived as being elevating jobs. Certainly, a guy like coach Dupree, we take great pride in that.
Some fun news, you guys are off to Costa Rica (the team left on Friday) for the foreign trip the NCAA allows every four years. For a team with so many new faces mixing in, last year’s transferring class becoming eligible, the transfers who were just in this last class, how beneficial is a trip like this?
Well, I think it’s beneficial for every team. If you just go on the Internet and you Google ‘college basketball foreign tours’ you’re going to find every team … there’s always great benefits from this from a team bonding standpoint. Obviously, you get more practices. You get 10 practices leading up to it. So, I think it’s been great for us.
Maybe the most important thing is the team bonding we’ll do towards the end of the trip. The beginning of the trip will be all games. It’ll be a business-like approach. Then towards the end, it will be us having fun. I’m sure, as we usually do, we’ll do a good job promoting what’s going on to our fans and boosters via social media and try to give them an inside look at the trip.
We’re looking forward to it. We do not have a starting lineup. As a matter of fact, every day in practice, we have eight weeks out of our 10 summer school weeks … only two hours per week are we allowed, and we’ve had a different lineup every day. So, we’re tinkering with things. We’re looking at combinations. That will be escalated as we go over to Costa Rica because that will be against different opponents, with referees, in a game-like setting. It’ll give us an opportunity to continue to tinker with our lineup.
If anybody thinks they’re going to project who are starting lineup up is, I think that’s way, way, way too premature as we’re still trying to figure things out. If you look at our record in years No. 1 and 2, we continue to get better as the year goes on because we continue to figure out rolls. And guys understand what we’re looking for as the season progresses, rather than be a program that comes out of the gate real good then fades at the end. We want to be the exact opposite. And we’ve certainly done that in years No. 1 and 2. We hope we can do that in year No. 3.