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Pack basketball beginning to jell
by Harry Spencer
Jan 28, 2011 | 859 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The University of Nevada, Reno basketball team is beginning to look like the talented squad that coach David Carter predicted it might be at the start of the season. After beating Fresno State 79-76 on Thursday, Nevada might merit the lofty ranking of No. 2 in the Western Athletic Conference standings.

Since basketball is one of the true team sports, the success of any squad depends on how the individuals concerned connect with one another. The rash of turnovers that plagued Nevada in some of its early games, ones they lost by single digits, was mute testimony to the fact that those five players on the court had never played together under game conditions. Now that the starting five have been firmly established, fans are beginning to notice the true potential of this year’s team. The biggest clue is in the scoring averages. Currently, four of the five starters are averaging more than 13 points per game. Any time there is a basketball fivesome that has the scoring so well distributed it means two things: One, there is no ranking superstar and, two, the players have learned to share the ball so well that it is impossible for opposing teams to single out one or two players to double team them. Another factor that might have led to Nevada’s disastrous early start is the fact that one of its current stars, Olek Czyz, was ineligible until the start of the spring semester.

Freshman Deonte Burton at point guard is beginning to live up to the lofty statements that were made about him in preseason drills. There is no question he is a fine ball handler who can score equally well from either inside or outside but early on had trouble deciding when to shoot or when to pass. As some of the roundball experts who convene daily at the coffee klatch at the Gold and Silver restaurant in Reno have pointed out, Burton early on took his penetrating dribble too deep under the basket and when the double team came, he did not dish the ball off at the right time.

That all appears behind him now, as he can spot Czyz, Dario Hunt and Malik Story more quickly. In addition, Burton has proven to be a deadly free throw shooter who is able to consistently draw fouls with his quick moves to the basket.

Another key factor for the Wolf Packs’ sudden run of victories is the center, Hunt, has been able to stay in games much longer by staying out of foul trouble. When on the court, he is a menacing figure under the basket as his rebound and blocked shot totals attest. In addition, his free throw average has increased markedly over prior years. As long as the foursome of Czyz, Burton, Hunt and Story continue to share the ball and maintain their almost identical scoring averages, it looks like this team will be one to fear at the WAC postseason tournament. When that tournament does roll into Las Vegas, it will almost be a home court advantage for Nevada considering the number of times it has played there in the past and the propensity of the fans who will be wearing Nevada blue.

Go Pack!

G.O.D. Club session

As expected, retired state Sen. Bill Raggio set an all-time attendance figure for the area’s Good Old Days (G.O.D.) Club when he was the featured speaker at the organization’s January meeting. After opening with some of his dry humor, he quickly segued into an overall appraisal of the political moods on the national, state and local levels. Having served 38 years in the Nevada Legislature and prior to that 18 years in the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office, he knew firsthand of whereof he spoke. He said the current political divide between the two major parties is the worst thing facing the country and this is the time for more compromise. He noted that he still plans to be an active voice when called upon to express his opinions on matters of state and politics.

Raggio commended the Washoe County Board of Commissioners for selecting his replacement, for the remainder of this term, Greg Brower. He noted it will be a tough session of the Legislature and said he was anxiously awaiting new Gov. Brian Sandoval’s State of the State speech, which was delivered on Monday night. Raggio said he intended to show up for the speech in person in Carson City.

During the meeting, Raggio was presented with the G.O.D. Club’s annual Community Hero Award and also with proclamations from the governor and Reno Mayor Bob Cashell denoting Jan. 21 as Bill Raggio Day in both the state and the city of Reno.

Size matters

The length of the obituaries published locally is usually a good measure of the departed individual’s impact on his community. The recent passing of Preston Q. Hale at 96-years-old was a prime example. His obit took a full half page and rightly so. He was a driving force in the area of real estate development and betterment of the Truckee Meadows during his most active days.

I first made his acquaintance when he was coaching the M-Man basketball team in the Reno city league of which I was the commissioner for seven years. He was a tough-as-nails coach and often had to be restrained when his undersized team of young Mormons was being mistreated on the court. Following that, I got the chance to work closely with Hale when he was the chairman of the RENOvation committee in the late ‘60s. That effort was the first realistic start of a movement to make the downtown core of Reno a much better and more attractive place — an effort that has gone in fits and starts during the past 40 years.

In those days of the middle of the last century, you could literally count the movers and the shakers of the area on two hands. Hale certainly was one of those and one of his major accomplishments was the sale of the old Reno Army Air Base, now the Stead Airfield, to tycoon Bill Lear. Had it not been for Hale’s efforts, the Lear development would have gone to the McCarran ranch area east of Sparks.

Alert and active even to his final days, he turned his talents to writing and published several interesting books, which are available at local libraries.

Another “man to match my mountains” in Nevada has passed on.

Harry Spencer is a freelance writer in Reno. His column about the past and present of northern Nevada appears weekly in the Tribune.

Editor’s note: Opinions expressed in Harry Spencer’s column are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Tribune.
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