Returning All-Mountain West senior forward Jordan Caroline and highly touted freshman center Jordan Brown sustained injuries in practice on Wednesday and are questionable for Nevada’s basketball opener Tuesday against Brigham Young University at the Lawlor Events Center.
With those injuries, and after more than a week of high-intensity practices, the Wolf Pack will have a rare day off on Friday.
“We’re not practicing tomorrow,” said Eric Musselman, who is entering his fourth season with Nevada. “It’s the first time I’ve given a team a day off this close to a game, and today is all non-contact. We can ill afford anybody else getting hurt, and right now I don’t even know who’s gonna play (vs. BYU) to be honest.”
The coach provided no details about the injuries to Caroline and Brown.
Expectations are high for Nevada, which tied a school record with 29 wins a year ago when it advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Caroline and brothers Caleb and Cody Martin considered making themselves available for the NBA before electing to return to college for their senior seasons. The three returning all-conference players — along with five transfers and Brown, the biggest recruit in school history — have The Associated Press putting Nevada at No. 7 in its preseason poll.
But Nevada was embarrassed in an exhibition home game against Washington and its zone defense on Oct. 21, losing by 18 points. Five days later, it struggled for most of its exhibition game with Division II San Francisco State before pulling way late to win by 25. Neither game counts for the team’s season record.
“We’re going hard, my legs are feeling it,” said Caleb Martin, an AP preseason All-American, on Thursday. “We’re working on things we really didn’t expect that we saw in that first game, especially defense. We want to be a lock-down team. We’re also trying to figure out what to do against a zone defense, which I think we’re getting better at as well.”
After Nevada’s quick defender Lindsey Drew injured his Achilles tendon last season, Cody Martin played the point the final nine and he opens this season in the same role. Drew is still rehabbing. The Wolf Pack went with a six-man rotation during its NCAA tourney run. Musselman used a nine-man rotation in the two exhibition games. If Caroline and center/power forward Brown are unavailable, the Wolf Pack bench might be short again for its opener against BYU, a perennial power in the West Coast Conference.
“It’s just going to take time trying to figure out the combinations of guys in the rotation. Besides me, Cody (Martin) and Jordan (Caroline) everyone’s new, so it’s going to take some time to find that chemistry.”
Head coach Eric Musselman echoed those sentiments: “I’m not really worried about those three, but it’s the supporting cast and how we all fit together and how quickly we can gel that’s really key.”
“I don’t know if it will be BYU or Pacific or when it will be, but we’ll figure it out in due time.”
By the way, Loyola-Chicago has sold out its Nov. 27 game against Nevada. The Ramblers defeated the Wolf Pack 69-68 in the Sweet 16 round of last year’s NCAA Tournament. The game will be televised on ESPNews.
— Michael Smyth