A Look at Fred Hoiberg's Approach to Recruiting
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

A Look at Fred Hoiberg’s Approach to Recruiting

March 30, 2019

Now that the search is over, it’s time to start exploring what the Nebraska basketball program will look like under Fred Hoiberg.

Derek Peterson gave you a crash course in what a Holberg team looks like with some numbers to know. I’m going to take a deeper dive into Holberg’s roster construction in Ames.

Everyone has heard about Holberg expressing his disdain for college recruiting while he was still in the NBA back in 2017. At the time, it seemed like Hoiberg had no interest in returning to the college ranks. But after a rough experience in Chicago and with a desire to get back to coaching, Hoiberg is ready to get back on the sidelines at the college level.

Last month, Hoiberg spoke to the Des Moines Register’s Randy Peterson about recruiting. 

“There a lot of things I didn’t like about recruiting; a lot of things are sometimes out of your control when you’re recruiting,” Hoiberg said.

Based on his comments, it seems like Hoiberg’s distaste had more to do with everything that surrounds recruiting as opposed to the act of connecting with kids and selling his program.

“Some of the things I liked about recruiting were building relationships with the kid and building relationships with the family,” Hoiberg said. “I liked that a lot. I felt like I was pretty good at it. We had some really high-level players [at Iowa State] as transfers and also as four-year guys. It’s the most important thing you do as a college coach, I get that. If it is a college opportunity, I’ll go 100 percent at it and do the best job I can to build the program. It is a grind. You can talk to any college coach, and they’ll tell you the same thing. And if they tell you something different, they’re lying to you.”

Hoiberg may not love recruiting, but he’s willing to do it and is pretty darn good at it.

While at Iowa State, Hoiberg was known as one of the best transfer recruiters in the country. During his time in Ames, Hoiberg brought in 13 scholarship transfers from other four-year schools (plus a walk-on) plus seven junior college transfers (including two walk-ons).

In all five seasons in Ames, Hoiberg had a transfer from another four-year school among his top three scorers. Most of those players were sit-out transfers with only Jake Anderson (Northern Illinois) in his first season, DeAndre Kane (Marshall) in 2013 and Bryce Dejean-Jones (UNLV) in 2014 as graduate transfers. He mixed in a few mid-year transfers along with the players who went looking for a new home following their seasons.

Eight of the transfers were double-digit scorers under Hoiberg while two others developed into double-digit scorers after Hoiberg left for the NBA. Two of his junior college transfers averaged double figures as well.

Hoiberg took advantage of the transfer market as well as anyone during Iowa State and he’ll likely do the same thing in Lincoln. Matt Abdelmassih, the assistant coach who was a big part of bringing all those transfers to Ames, is reportedly set to re-join Hoiberg’s staff at Nebraska after spending the last four years at St. John’s where he continued to recruit transfers at a high level.

Tim Miles wasn’t able to get over the hump, but he did show that transfer recruiting is a viable strategy at Nebraska as Terran Petteway, James Palmer Jr., Isaac Copeland Jr., Andrew White III and others all found success in Lincoln.

But Hoiberg and his staff didn’t recruit all their talent from other schools. Their combination of high school recruiting and player development was strong as well.

Hoiberg’s first two high school classes at Iowa State were nothing special, though they did produce a couple of gems. Melvin Ejim was a 3-star forward from Brewster Academy who was part of Iowa State’s 2010 recruiting class. Ejim started right away as a freshman and grew into the Big 12 Player of the Year as a senior, scoring more than 1,600 points in his career.

Hoiberg’s recruiting took off in Year 3 with 4-star forward Georges Niang headlining the 2012 recruiting class. He was Hoiberg’s first top-100 recruit and went on to have a great career as well, scoring 2,218 points in his career. He was a four-year starter and averaged double figures in scoring all four years. He’s currently playing in the NBA with the Utah Jazz.

Naz Mitrou-Long was the most unheralded member of that 2012 class, ranked as a low 3-star, but he went on to a have a good career in Ames, improving every season. That 2012 class was ranked 39th nationally and fourth in the Big 12 by 247Sports’ composite team rankings.

Hoiberg followed that up with a strong 2013 class as well featuring two 4-star high school recruits (guards Matt Thomas and Monté Morris) and three junior college players, one of which — Dustin Hogue — started all 70 of his games at Iowa State. That class was ranked 40th overall and fifth in the Big 12, but its average rating was much higher than the previous year. Thomas had a string career as a shooter while Morris developed into one of the best point guards in the country and is now a key rotation player for the Denver Nuggets.

Hoiberg’s final class was small —just two players — so its ranking wasn’t particularly high, but it included high 3-star point guard Clayton Custer who went on to star in the NCAA Tournament after transferring to Loyola-Chicago.

Hoiberg may not love recruiting, but the results show he’s pretty darn good at it. He took advantage of every talent pool available to him — high school, junior college and the transfer market — and had success with all three. Most importantly, once he got those players on campus he coached them up and developed them into stars and quality role players.

That’s how Fred Hoiberg took Iowa State to four NCAA Tournaments in five seasons in Ames, and that is likely the same formula he’ll follow in Lincoln as he seeks to do the same thing.

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