Steve Alford should be considered one of the kings of youth basketball camps. The Nevada Wolf Pack head coach has been participating in or coaching youth camps for nearly a half-century. Last year, Nevada didn't get to hold its youth camp due to COVID. This year, the camp is back, along with camps Alford hosts in his home state of Indiana as well as one with his son, Kory, at Huntington University. We caught up with Alford during the Wolf Pack's camp this week to discuss Nevada's upcoming season. You can read the Q&A below or watch the video interview beneath that.
On being able to host youth summer camps
"It's just good that we're back able to do that. We weren't able to have camps last year with COVID and all the lockdowns and everything else. It's always been a part of my summer. I told the campers that today that when I was their age, when I was in third grade, I went to Coach (Bobby) Knight's camp from third to 12th grade. I've been a long-time camper, as a participant first and then I've been doing camps for now over 35 years with my dad and now my oldest son and now this staff and it feels like it's always been a part of me. I think that's how young boys and young girls learn how to play the game the right way, and hopefully they get to leave here and have some things to work on for the rest of the summer."
On his team's development during the summer
"It's been great. Again, last year, if you remember, none of our freshmen had any of this. You look at our freshmen, who are technically freshmen again this year by rule, they didn't get the summer, so that development piece didn't happen. Now to have the transfers in, the new guys in with the vets, it's really been good. We had a really good month of April. Gave them off May. And then came back and really hit them hard in June and July. Then they'll get some time off in August. We've really made a lot of progress, both in the weight room and what we want to do in the court, so now we're ahead."
On how he feels about his finalized roster heading into the season
"Outstanding. There are a lot of coaches who are probably happy in July. I've been doing this a long time, so I understand that. But I just like our makeup. We're deep, we're bigger, we're more physical, we're more athletic and we have size at just about every position and experience now at a lot of those positions. I'm very excited going into it. Hopefully we can stay healthy. We have another three weeks left of summer workouts, and then they can get some time off at home. Hopefully when they come back we can have a really good September going into practice in October."
On where Nevada needs to improve to make NCAA Tournament
"Offensively, we're going to be pretty potent just because we have a lot of inside-out power as far as guys who can score the basketball and score in a variety of ways. We've spent a lot of time and emphasis on their demeanor and their understanding of how to defend because this should be our best defending team we've had in our three years, just because of our makeup. We have big guards, big, athletic, physical, strong guards and we have really good size up front. We have all the makings of being a good defensive team, but there's a lot of work that goes into that. If we can defend at a high level, I think we have a chance to be really good because I do think we're going to be hard to guard."
On which players have improved the most this summer
"That's hard. I never like singling guys out because I think all of them. When I look at all of them, they've done a really good job. And they're at different stages. Our freshmen to me are really freshmen again because they didn't have this last year. And then you have transfers that were even here last year that didn't get this. And now we have new transfers and you have your older guys who have been here a while. I like everybody's progression. It's not really singling one guy out. I've been very pleased with all of them. Sometimes you need a guy to gain weight and some guys who need to lose weight. Some guys working on explosiveness and freedom of movement, and then you have guys who work on skill. Whoever that is and whatever they're working on, they've done a good job of advancing in that since April."
On the NCAA passing name, image and likeness rules
"It's going to be interesting. We had fun, Coach (Craig) Neal and I, talking about how much money we could have made in college. I was an Indiana kid and grew up in Indiana. We were both Indiana All-Stars and then I go to Indiana and he goes to Georgia Tech. We laugh about the things we might have made money on. It's the era. Things have changed and times are changing and now it's about trying to educate our guys and it's not just about making money. That's while it's a little unnerving a little bit because these guys are amateurs and I don't want to lose that amateurism in college basketball. I get it. I understand the likeness and making money, but it's also who you're promoting, how you're handling social media. We want to make sure guys are representing themselves and our university in the right way, too, so we're really kind of going through the baby steps here in the summer with education and talking to compliance, talking to the NCAA, talking to outside groups about, 'What's the best way of doing it?' We're right on the cusp of it. We're at the beginning of it, and I'm sure all of that is going to weed itself out in the next couple months, but it is an interesting time."
On how he could have capitalized on NIL rules as a player
"Not so much sponsors, but we were both Indiana All-Stars, I was Indiana Mr. Basketball and then I go to the home-state school and one year in I'm an Olympian. After my freshman year, I become an Olympian and we win gold in Los Angeles. That August of '84, going to the Elite 8 in March Madness my freshman year at Indiana and on the heels of an Olympic gold medal, I would have liked my opportunities that could have came my way. I always tease him being at Georgia Tech in Atlanta and we go back and forth with each other with the Big Ten versus the ACC, I told him he would have had a lot of opportunities in Atlanta."
On the status of Nevada's non-conference schedule (you can see most of it here)
"We are set. There's just one contract we're waiting on before we go public. But we have it completely set and are excited about that. That is always one of the most difficult things, and you try and look at your team and we do think we have an opportunity to be highly competitive, so we want a highly competitive non-conference slate. We'll have 13 (games), which is full, so we'll have 13 non-league games this year, and seven of those 13 are going to be away from home. When you're looking at four legit road games and three neutral games, we're playing over 50 percent of our non-conference away from home. That tells you we're trying to build a résumé leading into conference. We don't have our conference schedule. The conference will hopefully release that sometime next month. But hopefully in the next week or so, we'll have that released."
On which game Nevada fans will be most excited for on the schedule
"I don't think it will be one game. I like our MTE (multi-team events). We were supposed to be in Las Vegas and there were a lot of things that happened there, so that's been moved. But there's going to be three good teams in that MTE event (Washington, George Mason, South Dakota State), and I think more than anything, it's going to be not so much the opponent, but it's going to be seven games away and six at home. We're got a road trip to the Bay and a road trip to Texas. We'll play two road games in Texas (North Texas and UT-Arlington) and two on the road in the Bay Area (Santa Clara and USF), and those are going to be challenging road games that will be pivotal and the MTE event we're playing South Dakota. Those seven games are going to be pivotal, but we have to hold serve at home against some really good teams."
You can watch our full interview with Nevada basketball coach Steve Alford below.