Last season interior play was an issue for Nevada, as they lacked the pieces needed to supplement what Deonte Burton, Jerry Evans Jr. and Malik Story provided on the perimeter. As a result the Wolf Pack struggled in their Mountain West debut, winning just three conference games and finishing with an overall record of 12-19.
Story’s now a professional, and with the arrival of newcomers such as Monroe (N.Y.) College transfer AJ West the Wolf Pack were expected to provide greater resistance in the paint. Unfortunately for the 6-foot-9 forward he was ruled ineligible by the NCAA due to his attending prep school for a second year before enrolling at Monroe, and as a result Nevada’s still had issues inside. Currently the Wolf Pack rank eighth in the Mountain West in defensive rebounding percentage and tenth in blocked shots, two areas in which West was expected to help them when he joined the program.
However in addition to the bad injury news regarding guard Marqueze Coleman and junior forward Ronnie Stevens Jr., it was also announced on Wednesday that West has been cleared to play. West, who averaged 8.9 rebounds and led the country in blocked shots (5.1 bpg) at Monroe last season, will play on Saturday when Nevada hosts Iona.
Obviously it would be unfair to expect West to hit the ground running and immediately play as he did at Monroe, but with the loss of Stevens due to stress fractures in his legs and center Chris Brown still sidelined (health issues related to blood clots) Nevada clearly needed a personnel boost. Three of Nevada’s top four rebounders are perimeter players, with Evans grabbing a team-high 5.7 rebounds per game.
“He’s a great player. I think he’s going to have an impact on this team with his ability to block shots and to rebound,” Nevada head coach David Carter said according to Dan Hinxman of the Reno Gazette-Journal. We’re very excited to have him on the floor. Now, is he a savior? He’s not a savior. He’s just another good player that adds depth on a good team.”
Both Stevens and Coleman, who’s dealing with complications after being poked in the eye according to Hinxman’s report, are expected to miss anywhere from two to four weeks. Coleman’s averaging 8.0 points and 3.2 rebounds and Stevens is contributing 4.6 points and 3.3 rebounds per contest for the Wolf Pack, who are 4-7 on the season.
Nevada has two more non-conference games before they open Mountain West play at league newcomer San Jose State on New Year’s Day.