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Digger: Fazekas should’ve returned to Nevada

ESPN analyst also discusses Reno’s Padgett

By Jeremy Evans

Tribune staff writer



STATELINE – ESPN college basketball analyst Digger Phelps didn’t need NBA pre-draft camps to know Nick Fazekas should’ve returned to the University of Nevada. He knew during the NCAA Tournament.

“I look at Nick Fazekas and he needed to go back,” said Phelps, who will be making his 16th straight appearance at the American Century Championship at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. “He didn’t have a good tournament. But by going to some of these camps and playing against NBA types of players, now he knows what he needs to work on.”



After finishing 23-6 and winning the Western Athletic Conference regular season and tournament titles, the Wolf Pack lost to Montana in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Shortly after, Fazekas declared for the NBA draft but didn’t hire an agent, leaving open the possibility of returning to school and retaining his eligibility.

Although the 6-foot-11 forward averaged 21.8 points per game as a junior last season, NBA scouts weren’t convinced he had the complete package to warrant a first-round draft pick. Without the guaranteed contract a first-round pick commands, Fazekas elected to return to Nevada.

Phelps agreed with his decision, then talked about another big man with Reno ties. He mentioned the best thing that could’ve happened to David Padgett was transferring to the University of Louisville, which recently joined the Big East Conference.

Padgett, a McDonald’s All-American and Nevada Player of the Year following his senior season at Reno High in 2003, missed the final 11 games of the 2005-06 season with the Cardinal because of an injury. Louisville finished 21-13 and missed the NCAA Tournament.

But Padgett, who originally signed with Kansas out of high school, was a bright spot for the Cardinal. The 6-foot-11 center started the first 24 games of the season and was second on the team in points (11.8) and rebounds (6.1) before suffering a season-ending knee injury.

Phelps, though, believes Padgett’s potential is unlimited when he comes to play every night.

“Watching him at Louisville this year, I think it was good for him to get in the Big East and see what’s there,” Phelps said about Padgett, who was a consensus top-10 national recruit. “I don’t think people realize how physical that conference can be. It’s different than the Big 12.

“I think moving to the Big East will help him because he has to make adjustments to his game. Let’s see what he does this year because there were certain games he would show up and other games where he would disappear. You can’t do that in the Big East.”

Padgett transferred to Louisville after averaging 6.5 ppg and 4.5 rpg as a freshman with the Jayhawks. He sat out the 2004-05 season due to NCAA transfer rules and will be a junior next season.

Miller a pro baseball player?

Alpine skier Bode Miller, who won the 2005 World Cup overall title, recently signed a minor league contract with the Nashua Pride. However, the contract is only for one day and expires after the Pride’s game on July 29 in Miller’s native New Hampshire.

At least $5,000 of the Pride’s ticket sales for the game will benefit Miller’s Turtle Ridge Foundation, which will then reportedly donate a percentage of the proceeds to the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

In an interview with Tom Brokaw, Miller said he thought Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs, a claim that has no merit since Armstrong has never failed a drug test during his run of seven straight Tour de France titles (1999-2005).

But this latest development of donating money to Armstrong’s foundation could help smooth things over between the two athletes.

Broncos’ Shanahan feeling loose

Mike Shanahan, head coach of the Denver Broncos, looked like he was feeling pretty good Wednesday at the driving range. The coach, who helped lead his team to AFC Championship game last year and acquired coveted wide receiver Javon Walker in the offseason, was hitting balls with confidence at Edgewood.

“You can’t hit much better than that,” he said. “Might as well quit.”

During a radio interview, Shanahan even sat back in a chair and crossed his legs.

Fuhr enjoys Zidane’s head butt

National Hockey League Hall of Fame goalie Grant Fuhr took note of the infamous headbutt by French soccer great Zinedine Zidane against Italy in last Sunday’s World Cup soccer final. When asked if he thought more hockey fans would be drawn to soccer now that it appears to be more of a contact sport, Fuhr raised his eyebrows and said: “That was a solid hit. It would definitely hurt.”

Tahoe Daily Tribune reporters William Ferchland and Susan Wood contributed to this story.


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