Neeser walks on to UNR
Some people may think Jason Neeser is crazy for trading an Ivy League education for a conventional college experience at the University of Nevada.
Then again, those same people don’t know how much basketball means to Neeser. Neeser only has one chance to play college basketball and wants to maximize the opportunity.
The 21-year-old Neeser won’t be eligible to play for Nevada until the middle of December, but the Pack sophomore feels he made the right decision.
“Sometimes I miss the academic side of it, but basketball-wise I don’t miss it,” Neeser said. “It wasn’t the right place for me. I’m definitely glad I’m here.”
No one was more surprised than Dartmouth coach Dave Faucher when the 6-foot 3-inch, 205-pound offguard left the program prior to his sophomore season.
“The distance from Tahoe to Dartmouth was a factor. I think he was fitting in nicely as far as basketball, academics and socially,” said Faucher following Neeser’s transfer. “There was no friction between him and the institution.
“There were things that were going on within him that weren’t noticeable. He was working hard in preseason conditioning, so I was really taken by surprise as were the other players.”
Besides homesickness, Neeser wasn’t pleased with his scant playing time. Playing time looked just as bleak entering his sophomore season since he played behind Ivy League Player of the Year Sea Lonergan.
But Nevada and Neeser are a good fit. Neeser grew up in Reno before transferring to South Tahoe High prior to his sophomore season. His mom and dad reside in the area, as do many of his friends.
“I feel comfortable here, but I’m not completely happy with the way I’m playing right now. I still think I have a little bit to go,” Neeser said.
Nevada fifth-year coach Pat Foster thinks Neeser is being too hard on himself.
“Kids like him are never satisfied with the way they’re playing. It’s not like he’s not playing well,” Foster said. “I really enjoy having him on the team, working with him and so forth.
“If I had a whole team like him, you’d hate to take money for coaching.”
But before Foster serves Neeser with adoption papers, he hopes his praise will spill over onto the basketball floor.
“I think he can help us in a lot of different ways. I think he’s very strong physically. He’s a very good shooter, and I think he can become better,” Foster said. “But I can’t see into the future. I think he’s going to do well, but that puts a lot of pressure on him.”
Waiting a month to become eligible may be detrimental to Neeser’s playing time.
“I’m not sure how it’s going to be. By then, they’ll have the starters and rotation that they’re comfortable with. It’s going to put me behind quite a few people right off the bat,” said Neeser, who is practicing with the squad.
Nearly 21 months have elapsed since Neeser last played a collegiate basketball game. Obviously, he’s antsy to resume his career.
“It’s tough mentally to stay in there when you don’t see the floor for that long. Even during my freshman year at Dartmouth there was a long time between games and competing. Basically, it seems like I’ve been practicing forever,” said Neeser, who averaged two points and 0.4 rebounds in the 13 games he participated.
With sweet-shooting Jimmy Carroll firmly entrenched in the two-guard spot, Neeser can’t expect too much playing time. But that won’t make warming the pine any easier.
“It will be weird sitting on the bench in front of some of my old friends, but that’s OK,” said the two-time Northern Nevada League Most Valuable Player. “My main goal this season is to improve and to maximize any opportunities that come my way.”
Be patient, Jason, they will come.
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