nebraska basketball player holding ball during practice
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Five Thoughts on the Commitment of Bryce McGowens

November 13, 2020

Fred Hoiberg made history on Friday by receiving a commitment from Bryce McGowens, Nebraska’s first 5-star high school commitment during the recruiting website era.

The 6-foot-6 guard from Piedmont, South Carolina, is a high-level scorer and a dynamic player and his addition gives Nebraska a top-25 recruiting class.

Here are my five thoughts on the commitment.

A Family Affair

McGowens is the younger brother of Nebraska junior Trey McGowens, and that connection is what opened the door for Matt Abdelmassih to get the Huskers back into the mix once Bryce announced his decommitment from Florida State.

Nebraska originally offered the younger McGowens back on April 6, 2019, a full year before Trey announced his transfer to Nebraska. On Friday, he chose playing with family over playing close to home at Georgia.

Since the NCAA isn’t counting this season toward eligibility, Trey will have two years remaining once Bryce gets to campus. Bryce is also close with Nebraska freshman guard Elijah Wood.

Phenomenal Talent

I haven’t gotten a chance to see full-game film of McGowens, but his junior season highlights at Wren High School combined with his career stats there are more than enough for me to get excited about the prospect of watching McGowens play in Lincoln.

He’s a long, lanky athlete at 6-foot-6 who can score at multiple levels. McGowens uses his long strides to squeeze through tight windows in the paint and he has terrific touch to finish in a variety of ways. He’s athletic and long enough to go up in traffic and throw it down and has a quick first step and good angles to beat defenders on the perimeter.

McGowens is a high-level shooter as well, particularly off the dribble. In three seasons at Wren, he shot 42% on 542 attempts, and he created a lot of those shots himself. He’s also a crafty playmaker who averaged 3.0 assists per game while scoring over 25 points per game himself.

Defensively, McGowens uses his length to be disruptive, averaging 2.0 steals and 1.5 blocks as a guard during his junior year, and he also corralled 6.4 rebounds per game.

Program-Changer?

McGowens is the highest-rated recruit in program history, and it gives Nebraska’ it’s highest-rated class ever as well at 24th nationally according to the 247Sports Composite. The closest previously was Tim Miles’ 2015 class headlined by Glynn Watson Jr.

Fred Hoiberg did not mince words in his release after McGowens signed his letter of intent.

“I believe that signing Bryce changes the whole trajectory of our program,” Nebraska Coach Fred Hoiberg said in a release. “He is the centerpiece of what I believe is the strongest class that Nebraska basketball has ever signed. Since I’ve been here, we have talked about building a program that can have sustained success, and adding a player of Bryce’s caliber shows that we are building something special here. It shows that Nebraska can compete for some of the top players in the country.”

Nebraska isn’t going to have the ace in the hole of a sibling on the team for future top-tier targets, but if McGowens comes to Nebraska and succeeds, it could put Nebraska on the map and make Lincoln a more viable landing spot for future standout recruits.

Heck, the NBA’s reigning rookie of the year took notice.

https://twitter.com/JaMorant/status/1327299279120191490

Not Just Transfers

Hoiberg has a reputation for doing most of his damage with transfers from other programs, and there is certainly a lot of truth to that. However, that doesn’t mean the staff will disregard high school recruiting.

At Iowa State, three of the best players Hoiberg coached were high school recruits: Georges Niang (71st overall in 2012), Matt Thomas (55th in 2013) and Monte Morris (83rd in 2012). Talented high school recruits will continue to be a key part of this staff’s strategy in Lincoln.

After the Huskers struck out on highly-coveted 4-star prospects like Adama Sanogo and Carter Whitt, I thought Nebraska was going to have to prove it on the court before Hoiberg and his staff would be able to land a player of McGowens’ caliber. I was wrong.

Now the Huskers have to capitalize on this commitment, regardless of how long McGowens spends in the program.

Scholarship Math

McGowens’ commitment means Nebraska has over-signed for the 2021 class. The Huskers currently have just two seniors in Thorir Thorbjarnarson and Western Illinois grad transfer Kobe Webster and three signees in McGowens, 4-star Mater Dei forward Wilhelm Breidenbach and Ranger College transfer Keisei Tominaga.

That means somebody on the current roster is guaranteed to not be on the team next season. Further complicating matters is the possibility of one or both seniors returning for another year since this season won’t count towards eligibility (though returning seniors won’t count towards the scholarship limit).

The one constant through Hoiberg’s first couple years in Lincoln has been roster change, and that will be the case again in 2022, at least to a certain degree.

For the time being, the players and coaches will have the 2020-21 season to sort things out.

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