No one has covered overseas basketball quite like the team at Draft Express over the last several years, so it should come as no surprise that Draft Express founder and new ESPN NBA Draft writer Jonathan Givony broke the news about Nebraska’s newest commit, Icelandic shooting guard Thorir Thorbjarnarson.
While he was scouring the globe looking for potential future NBA players, Givony got the chance to watch Thorbjarnarson as he worked his way up through the Icelandic National Team system and has a good feel for his game.
Hail Varsity reached out to Givony to learn more about the newest Husker.
HV: From what you know, was Thorir planning to come over and play college ball all along or was this kind of a surprise thing? Did he visit other colleges?
JG: This was not a surprise. He’s been planning on coming for quite some time. He visited UMass also, but decided to be very patient and wait for the right fit. He turned down quite a few other schools. Nebraska has been recruiting him for quite some time, dating back to Ali Farokmanesh’s tenure prior to leaving for Drake.
HV: What are his best traits at this point in his development, and where does he need to improve the most to make an impact at the college level?
JG: He’s a really versatile player. He’s good with the ball, can play pick-and-roll, and was always the one tasked with guarding the other team’s point guard in Iceland. He’s tough, smart, and really knows how to play. The biggest thing he needs to work on is his outside shot. He has made major strides with it, hitting 38 percent of his attempts this past season in the Icelandic first division (his team won the championship), but he struggled with it at the U20 European Championship a few weeks ago in Crete. His shot is a little flat at times. That’s gonna be a major key for him to playing in the Big Ten, because he’s not quite athletic enough to do as much with the ball against US players as he’s grown up doing in FIBA competitions and in Iceland.
HV: I know he came up through the Icelandic National Team system. How did he perform and do you believe that experience will help him make an early impact at Nebraska? Or is he more of a developmental prospect?
JG: He played really well in all FIBA competitions growing up. He played up a year at the U20s and had a major role on the team that shockingly made the quarterfinals a few weeks ago, an incredible accomplishment for such a small country. He’s always been a big-time scorer.
I think he can carve out a role in Nebraska’s rotation as a freshman, but its going to take some time to make the transition to the Big Ten. He’ll have an opportunity to grow with the roster. The coaches will love his competitiveness, work ethic, and love of the game. He’s a basketball freak who lives in the gym and comes from a very strong background. He’s not going to be an instant-impact guy, because its a big jump from Iceland to the Big Ten, but he’s a nice guy to have in the rotation and he’ll get better and better over time, because he works so hard.
Based on Givony’s scouting report, Thorbjarnarson should bring a lot of the same things to the table as senior guard Evan Taylor, who has played a bit of a utility role last year as a combo-guard who takes on tough defensive assignments. However, Thorbjarnarson seems to provide more potential as a shooter and overall scorer as well.
Nebraska has struggled somewhat over the last few years with a lack of play-makers, relying heavily on the likes of Shavon Shields, Tai Webster and Glynn Watson to create offense for themselves and others. However, the 2017-18 roster is shaping up very differently. With Thorbjarnarson’s prowess in the pick-and-roll and overall offensive craftiness as well as Miami transfer James Palmer Jr. and freshman combo-guard Thomas Allen providing support for Watson, the Huskers should have more offensive versatility this season.
With Thorbjarnarson, Allen and freshman Nana Akenten, Nebraska has three different yet intriguing freshman guards to develop this season. Watson, Palmer and Taylor will likely handle the majority of the minutes early (pending Gill’s health), but rotation minutes are there for whichever of the freshman can adjust to high-major college basketball the best.
With Isaac Copeland’s eligibility for the first semester up in the air, Isaiah Roby and Jack McVeigh could ended up having to play more at power forward than on the wing, and Palmer, Taylor, Thorbjarnarson and Akenten all have the size to hold their own at small forward if that ends up being the case.