Two-thirds of the way through the season, Nevada basketball coach Mark Fox said Monday his young team is still struggling to find some consistency but continues to improve.
He also said he has no intention of moving 6-foot-3 sophomore
Armon Johnson from point guard to off-guard, partly because if
Johnson some day makes it to the NBA it will have to be as a point
Nevada (13-8, 6-2 in the Western Athletic Conference) has won
six of its last seven games since losing its WAC opener at home to
Idaho on Jan. 3.
"We had a few people in panic mode," Fox recalled after the
Vandals' upset dropped the Wolf Pack's record to 7-7. "Luckily one
of them wasn't me."
The Wolf Pack's only loss during that stretch was last week at
Utah State (21-1, 9-0). They host Louisiana Tech (8-14, 2-7)
Thursday and New Mexico State (11-11, 5-4) on Saturday in a game
that has been moved to 5 p.m. to be carried on ESPN2.
"I do think our team is getting better," Fox told a crowd of
about 200 at a booster luncheon Monday.
"We certainly still have a lot of room to grow up. But our
defense is to the point now where it is fairly consistent. Our
rebounding margin in league play has been good enough (plus 5.7 per
game) and we're getting closer offensively. It's amazing with young
kids how up and down it can be," he said about the squad that has
only one senior, three juniors, three sophomores and two freshmen.
"The one thing we are still searching for is consistency. If
our team is going to be good, we have to have about 10 of them be
good," he said.
"One of the things we want to do, especialy with as young of
team as we have, is get better every day, better every week, better
every month. And I think we've been able to do that. If we can
continue to get better, I like our chances when we get to March.
... I think we have a chance to be good."
Fox said he thought his team looked fatigued - and a couple of
his players told him so much - when it squandered a 4-point
halftime lead at Utah State to lose 72-61.
"We're not as physically mature as we've been in previous
years," he said.
Freshman Luke Babbitt, who is leading the team in scoring with
16.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game is "off to a good start,"
Johnson is averaging 13 points per game and "continuing to grow
and starting to get some help from players around him," he said.
Sophomore forward Malik Cooke has been a "jack of all trades"
and fairly consistent while senior guard Lyndale Burleson has been
"maybe our most consistent player," Fox said.
"His defensive performance, which never shows up in the stat
sheet, has really been critical for our team's program," he said.
"He is never going to be a guy who averages 15 points per game and
he understands that, but he makes such a huge impact on defense."
One of the boosters asked Fox if he was considering moving
Johnson to the off guard position, the spot he played most of his
career at Reno's Hug High School. Fox said no.
"Armon's getting plenty of shots" at the point guard
position," Fox said.
Junior Brandon Fields has played point guard some but is more a
"scorer slasher," he said.
"Armon, if he wants to become a pro... it has to be at the
point guard position. So we're trying to develop his skills at that
spot. I anticipate that is where he'll stay unless I change my way
of thinking, but I don't think I'm going to do that."