It's been a busy week of news for the Nevada basketball team, which officially added Grant Sherfield for the 2020-21 season but lost Je'Lani Clark (at least, it seems unlikely he plays for Nevada this season). Overall, it's a net gain for Nevada because Sherfield was a much higher-rated recruit who has a year of Division I experience while Clark was entering his first year of college, and you never truly know how a true freshman will adjust to the college level.
Sherfield's waiver to play immediately at Nevada after transferring in from Wichita State doesn't change my preseason Mountain West basketball rankings. I still have Nevada sixth behind San Diego State, Boise State, Colorado State, UNLV and Utah State (in that order) and at the top of the conference's third tier. But it does increase the Wolf Pack's depth in the backcourt and potential ceiling as a team.
The biggest thing Nevada's 2020-21 roster was missing was a player who could initiate the offense and get good shots for himself and his teammates. The Wolf Pack's frontcourt should be above average for a MW school with returners K.J. Hymes, Zane Meeks and Robby Robinson, Oregon State transfer Warren Washington and prep recruit DeAndre Henry. In June, I wrote Nevada should have one of the MW's more formidable frontcourts, and I stand by that. It's a good group of players that will hold down the power forward and center positions, and I'm curious if coach Steve Alford runs out a big lineup with three of those five on the court at once.
The backcourt was a different story. There wasn't much proven talent there. The only proven above-average Division I player was Brown transfer Desmond Cambridge, who is more of a wing player than a traditional guard who makes plays with the ball in his hands (Cambridge had 91 turnovers to 61 assists in his 57 games at Brown). Nevada also returned sophomore point guard Kane Milling, who had an up-and-down freshman season, averaging 2.3 points in 11.8 minutes while shooting 32.4 percent from the field, including 26.7 percent from three.
Sherfield being eligible almost certainly pushes him into the starting lineup along with Cambridge, Meeks/Robinson and Hymes/Washington. The fifth spot depends on whether Nevada wants to play big or go with a more traditional lineup, but I could see freshman Alem Huseinovic earning that spot given his shooting ability. I wouldn't count out Milling or freshman Tre Coleman, either. Nevada has options, but those options look a lot better with Sherfield in the mix.
The 6-foot-2 combo guard, who originally committed to UCLA out of high school before getting out of his letter of intent after the Bruins fired Alford, started 12 of 30 games for Wichita State last season. He averaged 8.1 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game while shooting 35.3 percent from the field, including 30.4 percent from three. He'll have to improve those efficiency numbers, but that's expected as he makes the transition from freshman to sophomore.
The biggest thing Sherfield gives Nevada is somebody who can make plays for himself and others. The Wolf Pack only had two of those players last season in Jalen Harris and Lindsey Drew, who both departed this offseason, Drew due to graduation and Harris opting to leave early for the NBA. Sherfield might be more of a shooting guard than pure point guard, but he'll have the ball in his hands plenty for the Wolf Pack.
Sherfield doesn't solve all of Nevada's issues entering 2020-21. One big question mark is the team's overall shooting. Nevada made 309 3-pointers last season. All but 54 of those were sunk by players no longer on the roster. Drew, Harris, Jazz Johnson and Nisre Zouzoua combined to make 255 3-pointers at a 39.8 percent clip last season, so they hit in high volume and with excellent efficiency. Those threes at that efficiency will be hard, if not impossible, to match.
Of Nevada's players with Division I experience, only Meeks has been an above-average 3-point shooter in college (he's the only one that has made more than 33.5 percent of his threes in a single season). That's where Huseinovic, who also has some shot-creating ability, steps in as a potential key player as a freshmen. His greatest skill (shooting) will be needed on this roster.
Nevada will miss the defensive ability of Clark, who was the San Francisco high school player of the year last season and had been touted as a Patrick Beverly-type guard. But the addition of Sherfield is huge because of his point guard skills, which is of even more importance given that was a major piece missing on this roster and because Nevada's frontcourt has talent but will need a guard to get them the ball in good positions to score. Sherfield can play that role.
In fact, one projection system has Sherfield as arguably the Wolf Pack's best player this season, so while it'd be unfair to ask him to replace all that Harris gave Nevada last season (after all, Harris was one of the nation's top 15 or 20 players), Sherfield at least lessens the blow and gives the Wolf Pack a better chance of competing in the top half of the MW.
Sports columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ByChrisMurray.