Last Friday, the Nevada men’s basketball pages all across social media asked a question: Who would be in your all-time starting 5?
So, naturally, since I had nothing better to do during quarantine, I thought long and hard about it.
As you would might expect, this was an excruciatingly tough list to make. But here are my are my selections:
(Note: I tried to select each player close to the position they played at Nevada. Also, this is my best all-time starting five — not my “favorite” starting five).
Point Guard: Deonte Burton (2010-14)
This is a no-brainer pick. There was very little the 6-foot-1 Burton couldn’t do on the basketball court. He is second in school history in points (2,102), second in assists (515), fourth in steals (169), fifth in made field goals (649), sixth in made 3-pointers (184) and the all-time leader in made free throws (620). Burton averaged 16.2 points — including 20.1 in his final season — and 4.0 assists per game in his career. He routinely showed that he was a dynamic athlete that could score in a multitude of facets. Burton was the best player on the best team of the David Carter-era in 2011-12, helping lead Nevada to the third round of the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) after averaging a team-high 14.8 points and 4.2 assists per game. The team finished with a 28-7 record that year, the only collegiate team Burton played for that won more than 15 games.
Shooting Guard: Jalen Harris (2019-20)
This may be a surprise to some. I almost went with Kirk Snyder here, who was the best player on arguably the best team in school history. Depending how much you factor in longevity — since Snyder played three seasons to Harris’ one — Snyder seems like the obvious pick here. But Harris’ one season was one of the best in school history. The athletic guard totaled 21.7 points per game on 44.6 percent shooting (36.2 percent from 3-point range) — falling just outside the Top-10 for the single-season record for most points per game in school history. Harris’ 650 total points is two points behind Nick Fazekas’ (more on him later) 2006-07 season for the 10th-most total points in a single season in school history. The 6-foot-5 guard also averaged 6.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. Since the 1992-93 season (the furthest season that College Basketball Reference’s database tracks), zero other Wolf Pack players have tallied a 20-6-3 stat line in a single season.
Honorable Mentions (All guards): Kirk Snyder, Lindsey Drew, Cody Martin, Ramon Sessions, Armon Johnson, Marcelus Kemp, Johnny High, Kevin Soares, Marcus Marshall, D.J. Fenner, Mike Ray, etc.
Small Forward: Caleb Martin (2017-19)
This one also a very tough choice for me. You could make compelling cases for either Jordan Caroline and Luke Babbitt. While both were more than qualified to crack this list, Martin was the Mountain West Player of the Year in 2017-18 and was a finalist in the running in 2018-19 (the award went to Utah State’s Sam Merrill). Martin totaled 1,334 points in just 70 games — the 16th-most points in school history. Martin, who averaged 19.1 points (the 8th-most ppg in school history) in two seasons with Nevada, was a dynamic shooter from the 3-point line and finished ferociously with contact at the rim. The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists in his career with Nevada. Martin, like Snyder, was the best player on one of the best teams in school history. He may not be as highly-regarded as his brother, Cody, on the defensive end, but Martin still defended at an All-MWC level — averaging 1.3 steals and 0.7 blocks in two seasons with the Pack. He was named to the All-Mountain West defensive team as a senior.
Power Forward: Edgar Jones (1975-79)
Jones was the best player in program history when he graduated, leaving as its all-time leading scorer and blocks leader. He is still Top-5 in school history in each category — currently fourth in career points (1,877) and fourth in blocks with 180 (Note: There is incomplete data for his block total in his first two seasons, so he could have more). Jones is also fourth in career rebounds (1,120), second in made field goals (736) and sixth in made free throws (405). The 6-foot-10 forward averaged 18.6 points, 11.0 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game in his Wolf Pack career. Jones led Nevada to the NIT Tournament in 1979, the school’s first ever Division-I postseason tournament. He was the first player to ever have his jersey retired at Lawlor Events Center.
Center: Nick Fazekas (2004-07)
This selection is another no-brainer in my mind. You could argue that Fazekas isn’t just the best center in Nevada history, but the best player in Nevada history. Fazekas is Nevada’s all-time leading scorer at 2,464 career points. Fazekas averaged 20-plus points in three of four years, including 21.8 points on Nevada’s 2005-06 team that went 29-5 (the first Nevada team to finish with 29 wins). He led Nevada to four NCAA Tournament appearances and won three consecutive WAC Player of the Year awards (from 2004-07). The 6-foot-11 forward averaged 18.8 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in his Wolf Pack career. He displayed pristine play in the post while showing adept range (34.1 percent from three in his career). Fazekas and Jones are the only two players in Nevada basketball history to have their numbers hanging in the rafters inside Lawlor Events Center.
Honorable Mentions (All Centers/Forwards): Luke Babbitt, Jordan Caroline, JaVale McGee, Cameron Oliver, Alex Boyd, A.J. West, Pete Padgett, Dario Hunt, etc.
How does this team shape out?
Offensively, this team would be a nightmare to defend. Every player can score at a high level. The spacing offensively would be good — Burton, Martin, Harris and Fazekas can all shoot the deep ball. That opens up driving lanes, which each player was adept at scoring in the paint. Jones, Harris and Fazekas were all high-volume rebounders. Multiple players could bring the ball up and initiate the offense. Defensively, this group would be a tenacious bunch. These five would be just as good at stealing the ball as they would be at blocking shots. These five could theoretically switch in position’s 1 through 3 with their quickness and length, while Jones and Fazekas would hold down fort in the paint with their supreme shot-blocking ability.
Overall, I think this would be a strong five. There are a lot of different combinations of the best Nevada players ever that you could choose.
Who would you select in your starting five, and why?