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1,000 Words: After Fazekas, which Pack stars deserve retired numbers?

Colin Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick deserves to have his number retired by Nevada. (Mike Morbeck/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Nevada Sports Net columnist Chris Murray is known to be a bit wordy, so we're giving him 1,000 words (but no more than that) to share his thoughts from the week that was in the world of sports.

* NEVADA ATHLETICS DID THE RIGHT thing this week by announcing it is retiring the number of former Wolf Pack basketball star Nick Fazekas, who is first or second in Nevada history in points, rebounds, blocks, double-doubles, wins, NCAA Tournament appearances and NCAA Tournament wins, among other things. Fazekas was a three-time WAC player of the year, multiple-time All-American and is the best Nevada basketball player ever based on college career only. He joins Edgar Jones (basketball), Marion Motley (football), Frank Hawkins (football), Dick Trachok (football) and Gary Powers (baseball) as the only Wolf Pack members to have their numbers retired. Who else deserves the honor? Here’s my list.

Football

* COLIN KAEPERNICK: There are parallels to Fazekas and Kaepernick as both defined an era that included several Hall of Fame-caliber players around them. Kaepernick played with 16 NFL players during his Wolf Pack tenure, but he was the guy who made those teams special. Kaepernick led Nevada to that historic 2010 season where the Wolf Pack went 13-1 and finished 11th in the nation, the only year it’s been nationally relevant since joining the FBS in 1992. Kaepernick backed that up with a great NFL run – two NFC title games, including one Super Bowl berth – before being blackballed. And while some Wolf Pack fans have turned their backs on Kaepernick over his protest, his No. 10 should be retired given him impact at Nevada.

* CHARLES MANN: The only other Wolf Pack football player I could see retiring a jersey for is Mann, the Wolf Pack defensive end from 1979-82 who was the Big Sky’s defensive lineman of the year and an AP All-American after leading the league in sacks in 1982 with 14. Nevada’s highest modern-day NFL draft pick at the time of his selection (84th overall), Mann played in the NFL from 1983-94 and was a four-time Pro Bowler; two-time All-Pro; and three-time Super Bowl champion. He was a fringe Pro Football Hall of Fame candidate who was in the top 10 in career sacks at the time of his retirement with 83. Outside of Motley and Kaepernick, no Wolf Pack football player is more deserving of having his number retired.

Basketball

* THE NBA GUYS: This is where it would get tricky for Nevada. The Wolf Pack’s best basketball players have turned pro early, so do you retire the numbers of guys like Ramon Sessions, JaVale McGee, Kirk Snyder and Luke Babbitt who had abbreviated college careers? Maybe you take a page out of North Carolina’s book and retire the jersey (i.e. hang it in the rafters) but not the number, that way you have two levels of honors. Sessions, McGee, Snyder and Babbitt deserve to be honored in some form or fashion, but perhaps not a full number retirement given their briefer college careers. You could throw Johnny High in that class, too.

* THE CURRENT GUYS: Nevada also will have some tough calls on Jordan Caroline, Caleb Martin and Cody Martin, transfers who didn’t play their entire careers at Nevada. But those three have returned the Wolf Pack to the national conversation and left a huge impact at Nevada. If they get to the Final Four this season, I say you retire the numbers for sure. Caroline is going to finish his career in the top five in school history in scoring and rebounding and could be an All-American, an honor Caleb Martin won this preseason. This won’t be an easy call 10-15 years down the road, but this trio deserves some honor, whether it’s a jersey retirement or a full number retirement. Combined, they made Nevada relevant across the nation.

* DEONTE BURTON: Another tough call must be made on Burton, the second-leading scorer in school history who led Nevada to 28 wins and a WAC title in 2011-12. But his teams went 40-55 in his other three seasons, not that it was his fault. He propped that thing up. Typically, it takes three things for a player to have his number retired: (1) individual college success; (2) team college success; (3) pro success. Burton checked off the first of those three boxes but the other two are currently lacking. Burton certainly deserves to have his jersey retired, but he’s lower on the list of a full number retirement.

Baseball

* LYLE OVERBAY: A two-time first-team All-Big West honoree, Overybay also earned All-American honors in 1999. He helped Nevada to an NCAA Regional in 1999 and led the team to two Big West titles as well as a spot in the national rankings. He finished top five in school history in career hits, runs, homers, RBIs, doubles and was in the top 10 in batting average. The first baseman then logged 14 big-league seasons, hitting .266 with 151 homers while winning one World Series title, in his rookie season with the Arizona Diamondbacks. His 16.8 career MLB WAR is the highest in program history, too. Nevada retired coach Gary Powers' No. 17 in 2014, and Overbay’s No. 19 should be given the same honor.

Women’s basketball

* CHRIS STARR: Starr’s No. 42 should be hanging from the rafters next to Jones’ and Fazekas’ number. A three-time All-American, she had a dominant college career. The 6-foot forward is the program leader in points (2,356), rebounds (948), field-goal percent (60.3), free-throw percent (86.5) and free throws made (594). Her name is in the Nevada record books 52 times and in 2007 she was the first women's basketball player inducted into the Wolf Pack Hall of Fame. Starr also holds the Nevada record for single-game points (53 on 21-of-33 shooting) for either a man or woman. The honor is long overdue.

Softball

* KELLY DICK ORLICH: There are some players from the second incarnation of Nevada softball who could eventually earn the honor, but Orlich, who played for Nevada from 1981-83, should be the first considered. The 1982 All-American shortstop held school records in batting average, homers, RBI and stole bases when she graduated and was the first softball player to go into the Wolf Pack Hall of Fame.

Volleyball

* SALAIA SALAVE’A: Nevada has had a handful of great volleyball players, with Tiffany Neumeier, Suzanne Stonebarger and Michelle More worth mentioning, by Salave’a is the standard and deserving of a retired number. She was a four-time All-WAC honoree (three first team, one second team) and was on four NCAA Tournament teams. She’s first in program history in points and blocks, second in kills and seventh in aces. Hang her No. 6 inside the Virginia Street Gym.

Columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at crmurray@sbgtv.com or follow him on Twitter @MurrayNSN.

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