Nevada Sports Net’s Chris Murray will break down each of Nevada’s 12 eligible scholarship players prior to the Wolf Pack basketball team’s season opener Nov. 6 versus BYU. We will count the players down in alphabetical order using their last names. Today’s player: Nisre Zouzoua.
Position: Combo guard
Hometown: Brockton, Mass.
2017-18 stats: 35.5 mpg, 20.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.5 spg, 40.9 FG%, 36.7 3PT%, 76.9 FT% (in 2016-17 at Bryant)
Likely role: Zouzoua is locked in a three-player battle with fellow transfers Corey Henson and Jazz Johnson for playing time in the backcourt. Zouzoua is the best pure scorer of the three after averaging 20.3 points per game as a sophomore at Bryant before transferring to Nevada, where he redshirted last season. Those 20.3 ppg ranked 32nd in the nation and would have been the most points for a Wolf Pack player since Luke Babbitt in 2009-10. Zouzoua isn’t going to be approaching 20 points a night on this Nevada roster, but his scoring ability could get him onto the floor and into the rotation. Zouzoua joked he and Caleb Martin argue all the time about who’s the better scorer, so he can fill it up like a preseason All-American. He must improve his play-making and defense to get big minutes, and the adjustment from having the ball in his hands to being a role player won’t be easy. But Zouzoua, who will see most of his minutes at shooting guard rather than point guard, brings a valuable skill set to the Wolf Pack.
Key stat: 152 — Zouzoua hit 152 3-pointers during his two seasons at Bryant, including 92 in his final year on the team. His 2.97 3-point makes per game in 2016-17 were 32nd in the nation. And Zouzoua wasn’t just a high-volume 3-point shooter. He was pretty efficient, too. He's made at least 36.7 percent of his 3-point attempts in both of his college seasons. So, if you’re looking for a new name who can replace a good chunk of the Mountain West-record 126 3-pointers hit by Kendall Stephens last season, Zouzoua is the primary target. The big question is how many minutes he’ll get to show off that stroke.
In his words: “I’m very excited to play. Sitting out, that gave me a perspective of the game. Being able to watch definitely made me more cerebral and understanding the game more from an IQ perspective. When you’re out there, you’re just going. Being able to sit back and watch and break down defenses and offenses helped me get more prepared to play in Muss’ system. It definitely helped me appreciate the game a lot more. Not being able to play was tough. It got really tough at points. My teammates did a really good job of encouraging us and there was a lot of energy. They helped to make it an easier process. The biggest thing for me was working on my ball-handling. I know I can shoot pretty well, but just work on being able to create off the dribble for myself and other people and being an elite defender as well. My coaches tell me I have the capability physically to be a great defender, now it’s just locking in and understanding what I’m supposed to be doing on helpside. My dribbling and also my defense has improved drastically. We just want to win. At the end of the day, it’s not about having 20 and losing. It’s about winning. Whatever I have to do to win, that’s all that matters. Whatever we have to do to win as a team, that’s the only thing that comes first. Winning. At my old school, I played pretty well, but I didn’t feel like it was enough because I didn’t win. I’m a competitor at the end of the day. Winning is the ultimate goal. I think we have a group of guys who are older guys, who are mature, we understand we have big expectations, but everybody works hard. We’re ready and go hard every day. Drills, practices, individual workouts, we’re going hard. As long as we take care of business and are working as hard as we possibly can, I think that will settle everything else.”
Sports columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MurrayNSN.