Nevada to-be third-year coach talks offseason, recruiting
The calendar hanging on the wall is flipped to August. March is seven months away.
That doesn’t mean Reno has flipped from the basketball channel and is waiting for November. A run to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a decade has a way of igniting a fan base. That’s what Eric Musselman has done in just his two-plus years in Northern Nevada.
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 on Friday to talk about the busy offseason.
Here is Part I of that conversation:
One of the big deals for your program in the offseason really was in the NBA Draft with Cam (Oliver). Everyone believed he was going to get picked. It ends up not happening. He goes undrafted, but signs with Houston, which I believe is a really good landing spot for him. What did you make of that whole process for Cam? And what do you think of (his fit) in Houston?
Well Cam, he had a great two years. We’re really proud of the player development. He came to us really as a shot blocker and a dunker and he did an unbelievable job putting in time on his own, working on his perimeter jump shot. He became one of the premier three-point shooters in all of college basketball that played the four and the five spot. So, we were proud of that.
There’s a lot that goes into the decision making for young men when they’re going to enter the pro world. We would like for all of our players, when they make the decision to go to the professional level … to feel very confident that they’re a first-round draft pick. That would be the goal for anybody that comes out of school early. Cam was projected as a late- to mid-second round guy.
If you got on the phone with people leading up the draft, we felt he could go anywhere from No. 40, to undrafted, based on our input. There’s a lot of outside influences that talk to guys too. But he got a contract.
The biggest thing that we talk to our NBA, D-League (now G-League) and current players about, is you want to have a career in the NBA if you go the pro route. It’s not about your first contract. It’s about your second and third contract and it’s about longevity. And so, with all our guys when they’re at Nevada, and post-Nevada, we hope they continue to understand you have to get better on a daily basis. You have to improve your game.
Having said all that, Houston is a good spot for Cam because Houston really values three-point shooting. He had a platform to play in the summer league, where Houston played five games and Cam played three of those games. So now, the next step is go to training camp and prove yourself.
As we’ve seen with a team like Houston, there’s a lot of variables that go in. There are a lot of trades that happen. Nothing is guaranteed in life in pro sports whether it’s the NFL, MLB or NBA, you have to prove yourself on a daily basis. So, it’s extremely important to get better on a daily basis.
Having said all that, what a great two years Cam had and man, did he create a ton of excitement in Lawlor and we’re all rooting for him and hoping the best for he and his girlfriend Alecia and his son King. He’ll always be a huge part of Nevada basketball.
No doubt. A lot of Rockets fans in Reno all of a sudden. One of the things you’ve talked about coach, you talked about it in your press conference back in April, was how difficult it’s becoming to build a schedule as your program starts to really make an ascent and you try to find out really who you’re going to get and you try to schedule quality opponents. Where are you at putting the schedule together? Is it almost done or are you still trying to fill a couple open dates?
Well, I thought it was done last week. Unfortunately, two teams asked us to send the contracts and we sent the contracts and those teams have since backed out. So, from our perspective right now I’m extremely disappointed that we don’t have a schedule done. Again, two games this late is going to be pretty hard to fill with quality games.
We’re working around the clock on it.
The good thing for us, and we’re lucky this has happened, the Hawaii game is considered an exempt game and because of that, we’re allowed to play an extra game so you play 31 games instead of 30. Thirty is the normal college season.
Fortunately for us, we really only need one game. And we all know one game can easily be filled with a Div. II game, which everybody in the Mountain West plays except for us. Last year, we did not play one. We could have the schedule done by playing a normal 30 games and scheduling a Div. II team. However, we would prefer to schedule two games, because the Hawaii game was scheduled so we could have an extra game to help put us in as good a position as possible.
It’s so late in the process now, as you mentioned, so how do you balance ‘we want to add a quality opponent (to the schedule)’ and ‘we also want a (good) strength of schedule’ but ‘we also want to play a game.’ How you balance all those things in determining if a team is worth throwing onto the schedule?
We’re going to play 31 games is our plan. We want to have an extra game. It’s interesting because in our Mountain West meetings, Steve Fischer and San Diego State are the biggest proponents of playing Div. II teams. They’ve always played two and the league has made a rule you’re only allowed to play one, which I think is a good rule.
We’re not the only Mountain West team right now looking for games still. The other school that’s looking also needs two, and they’re a really good program. I think what happens is when you’re a mid major and you have a team that’s being perceived as being a pretty good program, it becomes more and more difficult to schedule. And there’s also economic factors that go into that as well.
Part II of the of the conversation with Nevada men’s basketball coach Eric Musselman will run in next week’s Sparks Tribune.