Nevada basketball announced Wednesday the addition of Eric Parrish, who committed to the Wolf Pack last month, but that is only the beginning of what is expected to be a six-player 2019 recruiting class.
So, while Parrish’s now-binding commitment might have been the headline on the first of two national signing days, the intrigue is about who will join him in the Wolf Pack's class. The truth is those players could be on different college teams right now. Coach Eric Musselman anticipates this year’s class to be heavy on transfers.
“We’ll probably have a lot more transfers,” Musselman said when asked if he would shoot for an even split of high school players and transfers, his goal in previous seasons. “There’s just less unknown. I’ve said it 100 times, the college basketball landscape has changed. The days of everybody recruiting high school players, it’s just not that way. There’s going to be over 800 transfers again and the complexion of how you develop a roster is a little bit different than it was 10-15 years ago.”
Nevada looking for transfers should come as no surprise to anybody who has watched the program in recent seasons. Musselman has built his program on transfers, with Caleb Martin, Cody Martin, Jordan Caroline, Marcus Marshall, Kendall Stephens, Hallice Cooke and others thriving after getting a second start in Reno. Musselman said by going the transfer route, he is making sure he accomplishes his number one goal in recruiting.
“Not to make a mistake,” he said. “The time I spent as an assistant coach (at Arizona State and LSU), as I looked at the programs I was with, the 13 scholarships are really valuable and programs and teams that make a mistake in recruiting, it’s really hard to get your way out of that. I thought the first three years we did not make a mistake. Every guy we’ve recruited has made a huge impact. We’re being really cautious with our scholarships. I talked to a lot of guys that we probably could have gotten that would have looked good on paper with the number of stars next to their name and stuff. But we just want to make sure we get the players who can fit into our culture and who can help us win at the level we’ve been winning at.”
Musselman said avoiding mistakes is easier when recruiting transfers who have already shown they can play at the Division I level. Parrish fits into the mold. Although he’s playing for a junior college in Louisiana this season, Parrish’s college career started at Akron. As a freshman with the Zips last year, Parrish started 21 games and averaged 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds while shooting 51.7 percent from the field.
“I’m really excited about the addition of Eric Parrish,” Musselman said. “He’s a proven Division I player at Akron and he’s off to a really good start in Bossier City Parish, his junior college. The thing with Eric is he fits who we are. Multi-positional player. He can play the two, the three, if you want to play small ball he can play the four. He’s an excellent, excellent passer and a very good defensive rebounder and the area we hope he continues to improve on is his 3-point percentage, and certainly that will be something in the summer we will really dive into. But, again, another guy 6-6, 6-7 who can play multiple positions.”
While Nevada's backcourt will be deep next season with Parrish, Jazz Johnson, Nisré Zouzoua, Jalen Harris (a transfer from Louisiana Tech redshirting this year) and Lindsey Drew (if he opts to redshirt this season as he recovers from a torn Achilles), Musselman said Nevada will not press to add big men.
“I think the style of play we want to play is a bunch of 6-6 guys,” Musselman said. “I feel more comfortable with that than true back-to-the-basket-type players. Even Cam Oliver kind of played like a small forward. We want guys who can pass, dribble and shoot. We’re not really worried about size so to speak because we’ve done a really good job fronting the post and Jalen Harris is as athletic as anybody we have in the gym, maybe more athletic than anybody on our roster and can score the ball and create his own shot maybe better than anybody we have in the gym.”
As for building a team based on transfers, Musselman was ahead of the curve there and it’s paid off with a Sweet 16 appearance last season and a preseason top-10 ranking entering this year. While some might grumble about that formula, it’s clearly working and a wave of the future.
“I talked to Coach Bill Self last summer and Kansas gets the pick of the litter with high school players and look at the roster at Kansas,” Musselman said. “They have a lot of transfers (three), and we just want to make sure the guys we recruit fit who we are, fit our system and can play and help you win.”
Women’s basketball adds three
The Wolf Pack women’s basketball team added three guards during Wednesday’s signing period.
They included Dominique Phillips, a 6-foot guard from Goodyear, Ariz., the two-time 6A Offensive Player of the year; Aly Jimenez, a 5-11 guard from Thornton, Colo., who has averaged a double-double in her career; and Jena’ Williams, a 5-7 guard from Bartlesville, Okla., who is an all-state honoree.
“We are extremely excited for the new additions to our Pack,” head coach Amanda Levens said. “Aly, Jena’ and Dom will all make an immediate impact and help continue to move our program in the right direction. Wolf Pack supporters will really enjoy watching them play. They will also be great additions to our university and the Northern Nevada community as they are all fantastic young women.”
The Wolf Pack has up to four more scholarships to hand out in this class, and Levens said she will focus on transfers and finding help in the frontcourt.