It’s safe to say that the Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team is a tad beat up right now.
The Wolf Pack, who concluded non-conference play Thursday with a 78-66 win against Norfolk State, one that moved them to 10-3 on the season and 6-0 at home, have dealt with a slew of injuries. One of its top big men, K.J. Hymes, hasn’t suited up since Nov. 18 with a back injury; starting guard Daniel Foster has missed eight of the last nine with an ankle sprain; Hunter McIntosh, an Elon transfer who was expected to be the team’s starting point guard heading into the season, had knee surgery before the season and could possibly miss the entire season; Eastern Washington transfer Michael Folarin, who was expected to be the Pack’s third-string backup big behind Hymes and Will Baker, has dealt with a knee injury since the start of the season.
Long story short: Nevada, who’s operated with eight scholarship players in the rotation for the better part of the last month, needs bodies. And head coach Steve Alford is more than aware of that, whether Hymes or Foster are able to return soon or not.
One idea of mitigating the temporary concern would be poaching players from the football roster. Former Nevada head man Eric Musselman notably experimented it with former Wolf Pack receiver Elijah Cooks, who was a standout multi-sport athlete in football and basketball at Atascadero High School (Atasadero, Calif.), and Justin Brent in 2017-18. If Nevada can hardly field a full 5-on-5 practice — walk-on guard Snookey Wigington returned to practice, making that possible — it wouldn’t hurt, right?
Well Alford said in his Tuesday press conference that he’s considered the idea — with the help of Nevada head coach Ken Wilson — despite the difficulty of integrating (a) completely new face(s) a dozen games into the season.
“[Coach Ken Wilson] reached out to me and we’re looking,” Alford said. “It’s just hard. You’re 12, 13 games in. So you just don’t want to add to add because I really like what this team’s doing, demeanor-wise. I like their attitude. And to just add somebody that we don’t know. Coach Wilson’s been great in telling us who would be good, and so I don’t worry about a culture thing from that end as much as I do just having to re-teach things to somebody who’s going to be added.
“I think I probably have (had football players on team), but I can’t exactly remember where we were,” he said. “I had this amount of injuries. I haven’t had five guys in sweat suits probably before. But I do like that idea (of potentially adding football players). And I do appreciate Coach Wilson reaching out and just trying to help us in that regard. We are looking into it. It hard when we’re on break. It’s kind of what I told him through text was we’re just trying to figure out and get a read of when we’ve got (Daniel Foster) and (K.J. Hymes) coming back.”
Nevada’s eight — Kenan Blackshear, Jarod Lucas, Baker, Darrion Williams, Tre Coleman, Nick Davidson, Tyler Powell and Trey Pettigrew — have done a good job holding the fort down. Blackshear has taken a leap offensively; Lucas has slowly, but surely, found his 3-point stroke; Williams, Pettigrew and Davidson have fashioned a very formidable freshman trio; Coleman continues to hassle opposing wings while Baker continues to develop into a force down-low in Hymes’ absence (he had a game-high 23 points Wednesday!)
But for the sake of fun, let’s kick the tires on the idea of adding football players to the roster, too! Assuming Foster and/or Hymes don’t return within a reasonable amount of time, who could Alford poach? Let’s dive into a few possible candidates! (Disclaimer: Yes, I have exactly zero sources on who could actually be poached, if this came about. No more, no less. This brief brainstorm is purely for fun!)
Dyson Frank, TE
Frank would be the best option. He was a multi-sport athlete that originally played basketball before transitioning to football. In two seasons at Jordan High School, he scored 203 points, racking up 143 rebounds, 30 steals and 16 steals. He’s got great size at 6-foot-7, 250-pounds with athleticism that Wilson’s raved about in the past.
Christopher Smalley, OLB
Smalley, a local from Douglas High School, was a multi-year starter for the Tigers, including when the team made state his senior season. The 6-foot-5, 195-pound linebacker averaged 11.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.6 blocks, shooting 52.2 percent from the floor in 21 games as a senior.
Nate Cox, QB
I’m not sure if Cox would actually be eligible, since he’s not technically on the football team anymore (graduation). But Cox was the tallest starting quarterback in the FBS at 6-foot-9? His size puts him in the conversation by itself. And it’s a fun thought.
AJ Bianco, QB
O.K., on a more serious note, Bianco played basketball for Saint Louis High School, and he’s 6-foot-4, 215-pounds. I couldn’t find his high school basketball stats anywhere, but his frame alone could make for a decent option.
Chad Brown, DB
Brown was a multi-sport athlete at St. Frances Academy in Baltimore, M.D. In 59 career games, the 6-foot-3 defensive back posted 6.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 steals on 35.2 percent shooting, including 32.0 percent shooting from 3-point range and 69.7 percent from the free-throw line.
Carlton Brown III, TE
Brown’s another big tight end with size at 6-foot-6, and was a basketball player in high school at Misson Prep.