Fazekas picked as WAC’s best
RENO, Nev. » Nick Fazekas has done at Nevada what he couldn't while playing high school basketball in Arvada, Colo. He's made believers out of coaches of elite college teams.
"In high school they were saying he couldn't do this and he couldn't do that. Now he makes play after play," Nevada coach Mark Fox said at yesterday's Western Athletic Conference Media Preview. "The biggest compliment to Nick is now they're saying, 'We missed on that one.' "
Fazekas, a junior forward, was announced as the WAC's Preseason Player of the Year yesterday, and the coaches and media picked the Wolf Pack to win the conference championship.
The 6-foot-11, 230-pound Fazekas averaged 20.7 points and 9.4 rebounds last season as Nevada went 25-7 while winning the WAC regular-season title, as well as a first-round NCAA Tournament game after losing to Boise State in the WAC tournament.
"I need to go out there and perform now," Fazekas said. "This puts a little pressure on me. I need to go out and play the way I know I can play."
Coaches of rival WAC teams have believed for two seasons now.
"He can do it inside and outside," Louisiana Tech coach Keith Richard said. "You think you have him played right defensively and he still scores."
"He's a unique offensive player," Hawaii coach Riley Wallace said of Fazekas. "He runs funny, it makes you think he can't play. Then you look up and he's got 25 and 10 or something."
Fazekas said he hopes he inspires other non-blue chippers.
"I wasn't highly recruited or anything, so maybe I can give kids some hope or a chance," he said. "Anything can happen once you get here."
UH forward Julian Sensley was also named to the preseason All-WAC team, along with Paul Millsap (LaTech), Ja'Vance Coleman (Fresno State) and Jaycee Carroll (Utah State).
Wallace said the 6-foot-9, 235-pound Sensley must live up to his potential this year -- for his own sake as well as that of the Rainbow Warriors.
"The scouts follow him around and he's been projected as a future NBA player since high school. But he's been at the 12-13 points, 6-7 rebound mode his whole life, at every level. If he wants to play basketball next year (as a pro) he needs to step up. If he does it will be a happy day for him," Wallace said. "He needs to take over games.
"He told me he wants to be a go-to guy. To me, being a go-to guy means scoring ... tough baskets ... getting rebounds and D-ing up," Wallace said.
Sensley averaged 12.2 points per game last year as the Rainbows went 16-13 but finished seventh in the WAC with a 7-11 record. UH missed the postseason for the first time after four consecutive NCAA and NIT appearances.
"If he wants it, he'll be really tough," Wallace said. "And so will we."
UH junior guard Matt Gibson was named to the second team.
The Rainbows, who were picked second in the coaches poll (tied with Utah State) and fourth in the media poll, open practice tomorrow night with "Twilight Ohana" at the Stan Sheriff Center. The festivities begin at 5 p.m. with team introductions at 9. The slam-dunk and 3-point contests as well as the men's and women's scrimmages follow.
Bolla completes staff: Last season, first-year UH women's basketball coach Jim Bolla had a staff of one: associate coach Pat Charity.
Yesterday, Bolla said he completed his staff with the hiring of Matthew Paton, a 26-year-old from Australia. Earlier he hired associate coach Lacole Brooks and director of basketball operations Liz O'Brien. Former UH player Jade Abele will be a student assistant as she completes work on a degree.
The Wahine were picked to finish fifth in the WAC in both the media and coaches polls. Both polls predict LaTech to win a fifth WAC title in five years in the league under new head coach Chris Long.
"We're picked too high," Bolla said, chuckling. "The league's really an unknown, losing four teams and adding three. Some schools have new coaches. It's a crapshoot right now, but clearly the top four are LaTech, Idaho, San Jose State and Fresno State."
UH senior guard Amy Sanders was selected to the All-WAC second team. Tasha Williams (formerly Crain) of LaTech was named Player of the Year.
Nine is enough (for now): WAC commissioner Karl Benson said the league will not likely add a 10th school that does not have a football team.
Although a 10-team basketball league is easier to schedule, Benson said he would not support adding another school to the WAC with that being the primary consideration.
"There are schools in the West (without football teams) with plans to go I-A," Benson said.
He said three schools approached him in the past six months. Denver, Southern Utah and Utah Valley are the three that fit the description.
"Would we ever consider a 10th member? That's always been on our radar screen," Benson said. "We would not dismiss that, but it's not on our list of things to do today."
Benson also said the WAC leadership will decide within two weeks on bids from Reno, Nev.; Boise, Idaho.; and Las Cruces, N.M., to host the 2007 and 2008 conference basketball tournaments.
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JC forward plans to commit to Hawaii
Alex Veit is focused on making the most of his final season at Monterey Peninsula College. But he's already got his basketball future mapped out.
Veit, a 6-foot-9, 220-pound forward, plans to join the Hawaii basketball team for the 2006-07 season and make his decision official during the early signing period, which opens on Nov. 9.
"It's always been a goal to move on to the next level, so I'm just looking forward to that and also just trying to do our best here in my last year at MPC," Veit said.
Four members of UH's senior class this season are forwards and centers, creating a need for big men for the 2006-07 season.
Veit averaged around 10 points and six rebounds as a freshman at MPC, and coach Blake Spiering said the team will depend on his inside presence and outside shooting more in his sophomore season.
"He's just a great shooter and a great athlete and is a very coachable kid," Spiering said. "He plays the high post and he'll hit the 3-pointer. He definitely can play inside and out."
Spiering said Veit was also recruited by Santa Clara and St. Mary's, but was sold on UH during a recent recruiting visit.
"He's very excited," Spiering said. "It was a long recruiting process. Schools were recruiting him all last year and over the summer. He really liked the coaching staff and when he went on the visit he just loved it."
Spiering said Veit was a qualifier out of high school and owns a grade-point average around 3.2. He'll have two years of eligibility at UH.