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Kory Barnett weighs in on Nevada basketball's new-found depth, upcoming open practice

Kory Barnett
Assistant coach Kory Barnett, right, sits next to head coach Steve Alford during the Wolf Pack's game against UNLV last season. (David Calvert/Nevada athletics)

One of the oddities for the Nevada men's basketball team entering the season is the fact only one player on the roster, junior K.J. Hymes, has played a home game at Lawlor Events Center with a regular crowd.

Because of last year's COVID-19 pandemic and the massive roster turnover Steve Alford has engineered the last couple of seasons, Hymes is the lone holdover from the Wolf Pack's 2019-20 active roster. And while Nevada fans have watched guys like Grant Sherfield, Desmond Cambridge Jr. and Warren Washington, last year's top-three scorers, play on television, they've only seen Hymes in person.

"We had a meeting with our marketing team about how we promote this season, and my biggest thing to them is there's one guy on the team that fans have seen, and it's K.J. Hymes," Nevada assistant coach Kory Barnett said on Wednesday's NSN Daily. "Even Grant and Des, nobody has seen those guys play live because it was shut down and we had a very limited crowd (250 or fewer for home games). The majority of people don't really know our guys, so we really want you know this incredible group, not only to be around but to watch on the court."

That's one of the big reasons why Nevada is holding an open practice for the men's and women's programs Saturday before the Wolf Pack football team's homecoming game. Barnett said that is a great opportunity for the community to get a better understanding of the team's 2021-22 roster.

"We really wanted to open it up and be a part of the homecoming festivities," Barnett said. "At 2:30, we're going to open it up and the women will start before us. You can come a little early and see them and stay a little bit after. We'll do a little bit of scrimmaging, a little shooting and you'll be able to see our guys and get to know us a little bit. It will be great, and then you can flow right from there as it ends up to the tailgate, which will run for another hour right into the football game. It will be a really fun day to be on campus during the beautiful fall season."

Alford is entering his third season as Nevada's head coach, and this should be his best Wolf Pack team yet. Nevada returns all five starters from last year's 16-10 team and added five newcomers, including three Division I transfers. Barnett, who played at Indiana and was on Alford's staff at UCLA, said the Wolf Pack's depth of talent measures up with that of any team he's been a part of.

"The depth is incredible," Barnett said. "I've been a part of a lot of high-level practices in my time with Coach Alford, my time in Indiana and this may be one of the deepest teams I've been around. We have a legit eight starters and all 13 guys are contributing in practice at a high, high level. Seeing them be able to compete on a daily basis and get better and push each other, our biggest thing is helping them connect. We went on a retreat at Lake Tahoe, which was incredible for our guys to get to know us and for us to be able to know them in a new way. The more that we (bond), I think we're going to be hard to beat consistently."

The Wolf Pack has been able to have a traditional offseason of training, which has seen noticeable improvements from everybody on the roster, Barnett said. Full practices began two weeks ago, and the Wolf Pack's cohesion from a regular summer workout schedule has been big for a staff that prides itself on player development. Nevada also is looking forward to regular-capacity crowds at Lawlor Events Center this season.

"The play so well together," Barnett said of the team. "We're having so much fun coaching them and just getting to know our guys. Come in as much as you can to our open practice, to our exhibition and when we get rolling this season, it's incredibly important to us not only for this season but moving forward being able to show the energy of this city. We've been fighting while everybody else has been away, and we want to be able to come back and for our guys to feel that to a high, high level. Not only our guys but the opponents. This has been a brutal place to play for opponents for a long time, and we really want to get that back starting day one after the break from the pandemic."

Barnett also has been on the road recruiting the 2022 class, making recent trips to Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Georgia and Florida. COVID curtailed in person recruiting last year, when Nevada added prep players Jalen Weaver and Nick Davidson, but has opened back up for this season.

"During COVID, it's hard because we don't get to see the kids," Barnett said. "Jalen Weaver and Nick Davidson stepped foot on this campus and we barely got to see them, interact with them, meet their parents. Jalen Weaver especially. It's hard because you want to know who they are, who their family is, do they have true-tellers around them, how have they grown up, what kind of adversity have them been through? A lot of that you can only tell when you sit with a kid.

"That's why it's been huge to go on the road and build that database back up of knowing the kids, knowing where they come from, know their 'whys.' Coach is huge on every single player we recruit, we tell them they're coming here to play with good players and they're coming here to play great people on the court but even better people off the court. We don't want to take a kid who will hurt our culture and move us away from that."

You can watch Kory Barnett's full NSN Daily interview below.

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