By Manny Vieites
Calling the Wolf Pack green is an understatement. Without the program’s flag bearers, —Deonte Burton, Jerry Evans Jr. and Cole Huff — a slew of new players will have to step up for Nevada.
The obvious question lingers: who will be the Wolf Pack’s go-to leader, especially down the stretch in the clutch?
Is it point guard Marqueze Coleman? Or is it shooting guard Mike Perez, who has played the most minutes with the team out of any player on the roster? Or will it be the big man AJ West, whom Nevada depended on down low last season?
It’s going to be a difficult task to replace the 21 points, four rebounds and four assists that Burton contributed last season — but all three have the confidence to become “the man.”
“I’m hoping to take over the role of Burton,” Perez said. “I am a leader and I plan to show the guys the ropes, leading by example. My experience is the major part of what I bring to the team and that ultimately will prove my leadership.”
Perez averaged 11.5 points, 3.1 assists and 3.8 rebounds last season, which are the closest comparable numbers to Burton’s. The shooting guard is a fifth-year senior, but needs to develop his shot. Last season, Perez lacked consistency, an area he worked on this offseason.
The next option is Coleman, who worked behind Burton for two years and knows what it will take to get to that level.
“I picked up leadership qualities from Burton,” Coleman said. “Leadership qualities off the court, as well as keeping a positive vibe in the locker room, is the major things that Deonte has taught me. Being a point guard requires you to be vocal, as well as score the ball, and I think I could live up to that.”
While playing behind Burton the past two seasons, minutes have been scarce for the junior, but he’ll be a focal point of the team this season.
Wolf Pack head coach David Carter will be the first to tell you, Coleman is the leader of his program.
“The playmaker this season is going to have to be Coleman,” Carter said. “We have more depth now and have guys that can contribute offensively, but we don’t need one guy to average 20 points. Marqueze has to lead this team, but we have the weapons now to be more efficient on the offensive end.”
The third candidate to step up as the leader is West, who averaged seven points, seven rebounds and two blocks last season for the Pack.
West is the core player on the roster, without a doubt, but will have to pick up the slack with the departure of Jerry Evan’s Jr. and Cole Huff.
“We’re going to be more team-oriented this season and not just have one guy carrying the load,” West said. “I want to be the anchor and the leader of the team on the defensive end. But I also have improved my game to be a consistent scorer down low.”
Whether it’s West, Coleman or Perez, the Wolf Pack is poised to ditch its go-to scorer past and will play more team basketball. This team is deeper than years past, and it might not need one unheralded leader.
Manny Vieites can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.