By Alexa Ard
On Feb. 20, Nevada was surrounded by a crowd of 2,521 people at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., about to face a team that it hadn’t defeated since Jan. 25, 2007. This team was also in first place in the Mountain West Conference, and the Wolf Pack was on a nine-game losing skid.
Yet, Nevada defied the odds by conquering Fresno State 60-54 in the Bulldogs’ house.
“We just went in there with the pressure on and stayed with them the whole game,” said Nevada head coach Jane Albright.
Pack seniors Danika Sharp and Arielle Wideman said this was their most memorable moment in their three years at Nevada. Sharp dominated this game by leading the team with 21 points.
Sharp, a shooting guard, and Wideman, a point guard, are the only two players on the team entering their fourth season with the Wolf Pack. They are returning starters as well. These two also share a deeper bond, in that they describe each other as best friends.
Sharp sees it as an unbreakable bond, and Wideman feels that their friendship even helps with their performance as teammates.
“She’s one of my best friends, and I just think that helps our chemistry on the court,” Wideman said.
The two began their college journey together as roommates in the summer of 2010. Sharp and Wideman admitted that they each had the same first impression of the other: quiet and shy. However, they both soon learned that was the opposite of the truth, and that they’re both outgoing and crack a lot of jokes.
Even Sharp’s current Facebook profile picture is of the two singing karaoke with Sharp wearing some bright orange shades.
The two can’t recall a time where there was ever tension between them.
“We’re the two that stick together no matter what,” Sharp said.
Wideman added that if it’s a rough game, which there were plenty of last season, then she has someone to talk to about it in Sharp. They don’t just discuss the loss either; they try to figure out ways where they can fix the problem or areas they can improve on in order to get the “W.”
It’s that kind of mentality and character trait that make them the leaders of the Pack, which is noted by Albright.
“I think for leaders, they have to be the hardest workers on your team, and I don’t think people ever outwork them,” Albright said.
Albright, who is in her sixth season as the Wolf Pack’s head coach, saw this tenacity in the two of them when she saw them compete on their high school teams during recruitment.
She knew about Sharp long before she saw her performance in person. The West Wendover, Nev. native was reported on in numerous articles due to her performance for her high school. She was the all-time scoring leader in the state of Nevada during her senior year and finished her high school career with 2,803 points.
After all the news Sharp was making, Albright knew she had to go see her in person. Albright said after seeing the high school game she attended at West Wendover High School, she pretty much offered Sharp a scholarship right then and there.
“I thought she was that good,” Albright said. “She was just a pure shooter, and really a team player and leader.”
The first time Albright saw Wideman in action was in an Amateur Athletic Union game. During that game, Wideman took a hard knock to the nose, and it started bleeding, forcing her to take a seat on the bench.
“Most kids would have never come back in the game, and within just a few minutes, she was back in the game playing again,” Albright said.
After that moment, Wideman’s competitive spirit really stuck out in Albright’s head.
Wideman and Sharp were both described as leaders of their high school teams by the Pack’s head coach, and they have continued to play that role as upperclassmen in college.
Their leadership qualities were tested as juniors last year during Nevada’s first season in the MWC, when they were also two of the three team captains. Nevada was already trying to grow accustomed to the bigger, faster and overall higher level of competition that came with being in the new conference, and it was faced with additional speed bumps along the way.
The Pack lost one of its most talented freshmen at the time, Terilyn Moe, due to an ACL injury just over a month into the season. Then, towards the end of the season, senior Chanelle Brennan, who was one of their leading scorers, was dismissed for violations of team rules.
Sharp said Albright sometimes didn’t even have words to give her team as they sat in the locker room after those losses because their coach knew they were trying and giving their best effort.
“You would expect her to probably be really mad, but she would keep encouraging us,” Wideman said.
Even through all the obstacles, the two said there was never a point where they wanted to give up.
“We wanted to try harder because we were sick of losing, but we just couldn’t pull out the win,” Sharp said.
The two want to see victories this season not only for themselves, but also for their team and coaches, especially Albright.
“(Albright) gives us so much,” Wideman said. “She rewards us for everything, so it’s about time. I want to repay her for everything she’s done for us.”
The chemistry Sharp and Wideman have developed from being roommates, teammates and best friends could be a vital aspect to the team’s success, especially because they are two of the three team captains once again. These two guards are determined to finish out their college careers in a victorious and dominant way. This goal could be highly possible if they lead the team to play the way they did on Feb. 20 against the No. 1 Fresno State last year.
Alexa Ard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.