Pack has eyes shut again |

Pack has eyes shut again

Has the occasional earthquake in the Washoe Valley shifted the University of Nevada campus across the California state border into Susanville?

Observing the Wolf Pack’s recruiting strategy concerning Nevada high school athletes over the years, I’ve gathered that the Reno-based university recruits within its orders like it has an East Coast address. The Pack usually doesn’t respect the surrounding prep standouts enough to offer them scholarships.

Worse yet, the school pompously assumes that the locals who aren’t offered scholarships will make like “Rudy” and pay out-of-pocket to walk on at Nevada.

Some of the jilted over the years have included Whittell High’s Mike Crawford (he walked on at UNR and became a backup linebacker for the Miami Dolphins for two seasons) and running back Chance Kretschmer (he walked on at Nevada fresh from a storied prep career at Tonopah and led the nation in rushing as a freshman in 2001). There are many more.

The can’t-miss college athletes coming out of Nevada don’t want anything to do with the Pack: Josh Barrett, an all-purpose back from Reno High, has verbally committed to Arizona State; David Padgett, one of the most coveted centers in the country out of Reno, is following Jerod Haase’s lead by splitting for Kansas; former South Tahoe High quarterback Brandon Tinlin didn’t waste one of his five official campus visits at Nevada and settled on Big 12 up-and-comer Iowa State; and Elko High twin linemen Pete and Jeff Cavender are destined for Boise State.

Nevada needs to be more willing to take a chance on some of the second-tier athletes who aren’t being heavily recruited. If they don’t get the lobster, they need to reel in the salmon. If they don’t change this perception, they are going to lose more talented Nevadans in the future.

Because it is the largest program at Nevada, the football team is open to the most scrutiny. However, football coach Chris Tormey isn’t the only offender.

In fact, the biggest offender this year is the Pack’s women’s basketball program. It is missing the boat on a very special duo from Hawthorne.

Believe me, from what I have seen of seniors Delicia Jernigan and Sidney Orndorff over the past two years, they will help some lucky NCAA Division I program in the near future. It just won’t be in Reno.

Why? I’m sure that is a worn-out question in Hawthorne, but since NCAA rules don’t permit coaches to comment on recruits until they sign, speculation is all that is out there.

Is Nevada reluctant to take another Orndorff after Sidney’s older sister, Ashlee, left the school during her freshman season? Are they too short — Orndorff is 5-foot-9, while Jernigan is 5-7? Is it because they want to go to the same college?

What really makes the Pack’s cold shouldering of Jernigan and Orndorff bizarre is that Hawthorne coach David Gelmstedt hasn’t heard from the school once.

Where in the name of Raider center Barret Robbins have these coaches been the past three years while Jernigan and Orndorff were carving up the schools of all sizes and stringing together three state championships?

“I have no idea,” Gelmstedt said. “If they get a chance to play at the next level, they’ll do well. You can’t coach that heart to play hard and to work hard all of the time. That’s got to come from the kid, and they both have it.”

Orndorff and Jernigan aren’t asking for Hummers. All they demand is the opportunity to continue playing basketball together at the next level.

“I think a college would be smart to take both of them, because they are going to get quite a pair,” said Gelmstedt of his stars, who have played together since the sixth grade.

Despite Nevada’s indifference, the Pack isn’t out of the running for Jernigan and Orndorff. Because of Hawthorne’s remoteness, Portland and UNLV are the only Division I programs interested in the high-scoring duo.

“We feel like we’re Division I players, but it’s hard to get recruited in Hawthorne,” Jernigan said. “A lot of people just don’t look here, especially when they see that you play teams and beat them by 30, 40, 50 points, so they are thinking they are averaging 20-something points per game, but are they really good players?”

UNLV was so impressed by the pair’s play Jan. 20 against Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, the Runnin’ Rebels have been calling ever since.

“They finally got the word down there that they are for real,” Gelmstedt said. “It’s tough to sell these kids who play in a small school to bigger colleges unless they are 6-3 like Ashlee. They don’t look at them because they don’t think they can play.”

They are players, and the Pack is on the verge of doing irreparable damage to its fan base and to the faith future recruits have in the university.

Considering the Pack’s track record, Jernigan and Orndorff won’t be the last in-state athletes to be snubbed.

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