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1,000 Words: Don't be quick to judge Steve Alford's recruiting at Nevada

Steve Alford
Steve Alford has a history of high-level recruiting, both at the Power 5 and mid-major level. (UCLA athletics)

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.

* FIRST IMPRESSIONS CAN LEAVE a lasting impact, but Nevada basketball fans shouldn’t judge Steve Alford’s ability to recruit based off his first class with the Wolf Pack. I know some Nevada fans have been a little underwhelmed with Alford’s early additions, which include Kane Milling (an unrated prospect from France), Zane Meeks (also unrated on 247Sports) and Desmond Cambridge (a high-scoring transfer from Brown who had efficiency issues in the Ivy League) while losing out to Cal for three-star Kuany Kuany (the top prospect to visit Nevada during Alford’s brief tenure). But you have to remember when Alford got the Nevada job in mid-April, only about 25 of the top-150 recruits in the 2019 class were uncommitted.

* YEAH, IT WOULD BE NICE if Alford could have grabbed a four-star prep kid out of his hat by now – or a Cameron Oliver or Lindsey Drew-type talent like Eric Musselman did in his first class – but the odds of that were low given the timing of his hiring. He also wasn’t done any favors from the previous regime as no 2019 high school prospects had taken an official visit to Nevada prior to Alford’s hiring, so he was playing catch up from the start with few program-changing players available on the market. Really, his charge was to fill the holes on the roster, which was solid, while trying to find a couple of high-ceiling prep kids to develop long term.

* ALFORD HAS BEEN ABLE TO retain almost all of the key returners on Nevada’s roster, which was his first job. That has given Nevada a chance to be successful next season without a major rebuild. And while I do like Meeks, Alford’s first three signees seem more like role players than future all-conference pieces. But, again, you need the context of the situation he inherited. He had a lot of open scholarships and not a lot of prized prospects out there, which can be a tricky situation. You don’t want to fill scholarships just to fill them and lock yourself into an insufficient roster moving forward. Alford has filled three of his six potential spots so far, showing some good patience during the process.

* WE CAN MORE OR LESS THROW Alford’s recruiting at UCLA out the window when looking at what he will do at Nevada. Alford did an excellent job there, but recruiting to Nevada is a lot different than recruiting to UCLA. You’re talking about a different class of kids who will consider Westwood rather than Reno. Nothing wrong with that. The more apt comparison is New Mexico, where Alford spent six seasons (and won six Mountain West titles) before leaving for UCLA. With the Lobos, Alford signed eight players who went on to win All-MW honors, including five who eventually reached the NBA, a massive number for a mid-major school in a six-year period.

* THAT LIST OF FIVE FUTURE NBA players runs the gamut from a four-star recruit (Alex Kirk) to a Division I transfer (Drew Gordon) to a relatively unheralded three-star recruit (Tony Snell) to a JuCo product (Darington Hobson) to a two-star recruit (Cameron Bairstow). He also unearthed unrated players (Hugh Greenwood) who became All-MW contributors and three-star products (Kendall Williams, Dairese Gary) who became multiple-time first-team honorees (Williams also was the MW player of the year). This is all to say I wouldn’t worry too much about whether Alford can recruit even if the initial impression might be a little underwhelming. He recruited at a high level at UCLA and at New Mexico. He’ll be able to do it at Nevada, too. Just give him a full recruiting cycle or two to show it.

* I KNOW WE DON’T EXACTLY LIKE talking about him in these parts anymore, but it’s been interesting to track how Musselman has gone about building Arkansas’ roster. He was adamant when he got the job he wasn’t going to lean on transfers as heavily in Fayetteville as he did in Reno. The results so far? He’s signed four players. All four have been transfers: J.D. Notae from Jacksonville. Connor Vanover from Cal. Isaiah Moss from Iowa. And Jeantal Cylla from UNC-Wilmington. Again, it’s a first class, so let’s not judge too much, but Musselman’s success at Arkansas will come down to whether he can get an equal amount of top-100 prep prospects as transfers. You need those caliber players to win in the SEC.

* MINNESOTA FOOTBALL COACH P.J. FLECK said this week, “We have a problem in our society. We don’t have a problem in our program,” in regard to a number of de-commitments from his team. "I have a rule: You commit to me, you can't go see another place. Not because I'm insecure. But if you want to be committed, you're going to be committed. Too many people teach young people to be committed but also one foot in and one foot out." Worth noting: After two years at Western Michigan, Fleck broke his six-year contract to go to Minnesota. He also took six of Western Michigan’s committed players to Minnesota. So, yes, it sounds like we have a commitment problem in our society, and it starts with coaches who bail on their schools with four years left on their multi-million contracts.

* THE GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS will go and win the NBA Finals with or without Kevin Durant, which shows the absurdity of Durant signing with the team in the first place. It was a joke when he signed with a team coming off a record 73-win season and it remains a joke after he won back-to-back NBA Finals MVP awards the last two seasons. With Durant out with a calf injury, the Warriors knocked the Rockets out of the Western Conference Semifinals (on the road) in Game 6 before sweeping the Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Finals. They'd do something similar to the Milwaukee Bucks or Toronto Raptors in the NBA Finals (probably win it in six games) without Durant. That's why Durant will have to leave the Warriors and win a title with another team to cement his legacy as one of the NBA's all-time greats.

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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