Matt Abdelmassih and Fred Hoiberg talk during basketball practice
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Abdelmassih Encouraged by Huskers’ Progress in 2021 Recruiting

August 18, 2020

The COVD-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the college basketball recruiting calendar. The dead period has been extended through August, which means no visits and no live periods for evaluation.

Despite the lack of visits and other unique circumstances, Nebraska put together a full 2020 class. Fred Hoiberg almost completely flipped the roster in year one by bringing in 11 new players, but a 7-25 season necessitated more turnover in year two.

Hoiberg’s 2020 class included seven more newcomers — three transfers, two junior college players and two high school recruits. The 2020 recruits will join the three sit-out transfers from last year on a new-look roster. Matt Abdelmassih’s philosophy is to never stop seeking out talent, but the coaches are hoping attempt number two at building a roster will yield a foundation they can build their program on.

Nebraska is set to have just two seniors on the roster in 2020-21 — grad transfer Kobe Webster and the longest-tenured Husker, Thorir Thorbjarnarson. Nebraska already has one commitment in junior college guard Keisei Tominaga, the sharp-shooter from Japan who committed back on Thanksgiving. That means, as of now, Nebraska only has one s scholarship to fill in 2021. Considering how limited scouting opportunities have been this cycle, that’s not a bad situation to be in.

“We feel really, really great about where we’re at as a program and taking a big step in year two, attracting high-level talent that can take this program to a level it’s never been and just creating the momentum,” Abdelmassih told Hail Varsity. “Moving to ’21, we feel great about the targets we’re on, far down the road on a bunch of kids and feel like we’re in prime position to have a great class however it plays out.”

Attrition is always likely in college basketball, but the coaches are high on their core that consists primarily of juniors and sophomores. If things go south again, all bets are off. But as of now, Nebraska can afford to be selective and really hone in on their top-end targets in 2021.

Hunter Sallis, the 5-star guard from just up the road at Millard North, will remain at the top of their board as long as Sallis gives them a reason to keep recruiting him, though with schools like Kansas, Gonzaga and North Carolina recruiting him it’s probably a long shot.

Carter Whitt is a talented 6-foot-3 point guard from Raleigh, North Carolina, who was considering reclassifying to 2020 but ultimately chose to stay in 2021. Nebraska has been pursuing him for a while and now has time to continue strengthening that relationship.

Wilhelm Breidenbach is the kind of big man Hoiberg loves to have on his team — 6-foot-9 and skilled enough to put the ball on the deck and knock down jumper. The native of Santa Ana, California, took a visit to Nebraska back on Sept. 27.
On the wing, Jordan Nesbitt is a 6-foot-6 swingman from St. Louis, Missouri, who visited Nebraska the same weekend as Breidenbach and remains high on the Huskers’ board.

Sallis, Whitt, Breidenbach and Nesbitt are all top-100 prospects according to 247Sports’ composite, and landing any of them would be a huge win for Nebraska. Of course, Abdelmassih will remain active in the transfer portal as well.

“We feel we’re in great position with highly sought-after high school kids and kids the can make immediate impacts, and we’re focused on that and gaining those additions,” Abdelmassih said. “With transfers, that’s always going to be in play. We’ll never go away from that. It’d be foolish not to; it’d be like neglecting free agency if you were in the NBA. You always have to be a step ahead with adding talent wherever that comes from.”

Hoiberg and his assistants have been heavily transfer-focused during their first two years in Lincoln as they’ve sought to establish that foundation of their program. Of the 18 scholarship players they’ve brought in at Nebraska, six have been high school recruits, five have been traditional transfers form other four-year schools, four have been junior college transfers and three have been graduate transfers. Abdelmassih said there isn’t any specific balance he’s trying to strike between the various avenues of acquiring talent. He wants to land the best players he can get to Nebraska.

“The biggest thing is trying to have as balanced of classes as possible where you don’t have a mass exodus with kids that graduate or can leave,” Abdelmassih said. “But I’ve always had the mindset wherever the talent gets you to a level that you want to win games, whether it’s high school, JUCO, transfers, that’s the most important thing. If it’s a group of transfers because that’s the best talent we feel like can elevate the program, that’s the way we’re going to go. If we can add high school kids that also fit that same need, absolutely we’ll go that route.”

Currently, Nebraska is set to have 10 upperclassmen in 2021-22 including either five or six seniors depending on Trey McGowens’ waiver. Filling that open scholarship with a high school recruit would help create more of that balance Abdelmassih talked about, and any further additions would depend on attrition which would open the door to adding transfers of any class.

Nebraska will have plenty of scholarships to offer for 2022 and has cast its net far and wide in terms of offers, but the coaches have already locked in on their top targets for 2021 and are using the contact period to strengthen relationships with those players.

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