by Neil Patrick Healy
First-year head basketball coach Eric Musselman managed to get the commitments of two key players just weeks after taking the job at Nevada, and they will be key pieces in his plan to rebuild the once great Wolf Pack basketball program. Nevada fans, meet forward Cameron Oliver and point guard Lindsey Drew. Remember the names, because these freshmen are both the present and the future of the program.
To say Lindsey Drew comes from a basketball background is an understatement. He has a purebred pedigree in getting buckets. Drew is the son of former NBA head coach and the No. 17 overall pick in the 1980 NBA draft Larry Drew, while his two older brothers Larry II and Landon both played Division I basketball. His oldest brother Larry II played at North Carolina and then transferred to UCLA, while Landon played at Cal State, Northridge.
The 6-foot-4 point guard from Los Angeles possesses the qualities that make him perfect for Musselman’s system. His frame and athletic ability give him the ability to play good defense against quality point guards that are common in the Mountain West, while his court vision makes him perfect for making the outlet pass in transition. Originally committing to Arizona State, Drew flipped to Nevada and will be expected to play a major role in the offense this season. Musselman believes that his presence on defense will be his best asset this season.
“He has unbelievable anticipation defensively,” Musselman said in an interview with RGJ sports writer Chris Murray. “He gets his hands on so many balls and deflections. He came in and everybody said he had a high basketball IQ, and he does. He needed to get stronger. He needs to continue to add weight and get stronger. One knock on him was his ability to knock down perimeter shots, but he gets better and better every day from three-point line.”
With the lack of a solidified option in the backcourt, Drew is in a position to become the full-time starting point guard.
This high-flying freshman forward is what SportsCenter is made for and what makes fans drool with excitement. Oliver had originally verbally committed to Oregon State, but ended up sitting out a year before committing to Nevada. The 6-foot-8, 225-pound forward from Sacramento has all the ability to be the MWC freshman of the year with his athletic ability, low-post skills and his overall ferocity with his dunks. He is the perfect running mate with senior center AJ West in his ability to defend the low post.
“[Cam’s play] was great,” West said. “For two years not really having anybody next to me and then having Cam come in and take a load off my back personally is great. Defensively he helps me with shot blocks and offensively he brings attention to him, so we go on towards the rest of the season he’ll draw double teams and I’ll be open and vice versa.”
In the second exhibition game against Alaska-Fairbanks last Friday, Oliver had a stuffed stat line of 19 points, 9-for-12 shooting, eight rebounds and four blocks. His points were not just easy put-backs either. Midway through the second half, Oliver had the ball, faked inside and drained a 15-foot step-back jumper with a defender in his face. Oliver can do it all.
Both freshmen will be looked to as major contributors this season and it is evident to both their teammates and coaches that they don’t play like freshmen.
“You wouldn’t have even thought they were freshmen out there,” said senior guard Tyron Criswell. “They played great and we need them to continue to play great in order for us to play great.”
Midway through the first half in the exhibition game against Dominican, Drew threw up the lob pass to Oliver while he was running up the baseline. Oliver caught the lob in mid-air and threw down the ferocious ally-oop slam. The crowd went nuts and there was a pulse of life in Lawlor Events Center. With more big plays like this from the Pack’s new blood and Lawlor will be brought back to its former glory.
Neil Patrick Healy can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @NeilTheJuiceMan.