Photo-Juliana Bledsoe/Nevada Sagebrush
By Eric Uribe
If you’re an incoming freshman, I feel bad for you.
Why? Because you’ll never get the opportunity to watch Deonte Burton in a Nevada jersey. You came just a year too late.
Over the past four years, Burton and his magical beard dominated the court with highlight-reel slam dunks and game-winning shots — many of which landed him on SportsCenter Top 10 Plays. He was the face of Wolf Pack sports and one of the greatest athletes to ever grace the school. Now Burton is pursuing an NBA career and Nevada has a huge void to fill.
After all, it’s not easy replacing the school’s second all-time leading scorer. Wolf Pack head coach David Carter is going to have to take a “Moneyball” approach and replace Burton with a slew of players, not one heir apparent.
Eight players from last year’s team return, bringing a wealth of experience. In the backcourt, Marqueze Coleman will be tasked with filling Burton’s starting position. The junior has flashed in his tenure but needs to show consistency. However, the key to Nevada’s success could fall on the frontcourt. Center AJ West returns after half a season of Division I play under his belt. While a master of disaster on the defensive end, West needs to develop as an offensive weapon. The only returning starter besides West is shooting guard Michael Perez. In his first season with the Wolf Pack, Perez 11.5 points a game — most among any returning player. Perez could be tasked with being the team’s go-to scorer, a role formerly reserved for Burton.
Carter has also added Tyron Criswell to the mix, a highly touted recruit from Central Community College in Columbus, Neb. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard averaged 20.1 points last season en route to being named the NJCAA Division II Player of the Year. Criswell joins a recruiting class consisting of ex-Arizona commit Eric Cooper and California transfer Kaileb Rodriguez, along with high schoolers Elijah Foster and Robyn Missa. “Tyron has the intangibles we feel that are important to win at this level,” Carter said in a press release last week. “He can score, defend and rebound. He’s an athletic guard that will provide more depth at our guard position.”
One more player freshmen won’t have the privilege of seeing: Richard “Dick” Bell. Carter announced the 6-foot-9 prodigy from England won’t be returning to the team last week. In his three seasons with the Wolf Pack, you could count the number of games Bell logged minutes in on one hand.
While absent on the basketball floor, Bell was a staple in the college partying scene. Whether it’s at Edge Nightspot, the Wal, or some random house, nearly every Nevada student has a partying with Bell story — the kind of things you’ll remember long after you graduate.
With him no longer on the team, one has to guess Bell is taking his lofty talents elsewhere. I think we can all agree smaller schools are banging the table to lure Bell and his expansive skillset. After years of Bell being the Sagebrush’s whipping boy, there’s only one thing left to say. Good luck, Dick, and God speed.
Eric Uribe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.