Scott Frost and the football team aren’t the only ones using the Spring Game weekend as a recruiting tool. New basketball coach Fred Hoiberg is hosting a handful of recruits as well and he got some screen time during the first quarter as Nebraska introduced him to Memorial Stadium.
But first Hoiberg met with the media to discuss his now complete coaching staff and more.
Hoiberg accepted the job on March 30, he was introduced on April 2, he visited Nebraska’s commits last week before holding individual meetings with the current players and he announced his coaching staff on Friday.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Hoiberg said. “I’ve been on the road, flying around, seeing some kids and with the visits and phone calls and really trying to see what our roster is going to look like next year. Then we’ve also been doing individual workouts with our players. So it’s been busy. It’s been crazy. At some point I have to find a place to live.”
Hoiberg’s first hire was recruiting dynamo Matt Abdelmassih who was with him for his first press conference. Hoiberg retained Armon Gates from Tim Miles’ staff, lured Doc Sadler back to Lincoln from Southern Miss and added Bobby Lutz as a special assistant.
“I’m really excited about our staff with getting Doc Sadler back here,” Hoiberg said. “The great thing about Doc is everybody is more excited to see him than me now so that’s been good. But also, to keep Armon Gates on. I’ve been really impressed with Armon and he knows the lay of the land around here and obviously the players that are on the team. He’s a high-level recruiter. And then Matt Abdelmassih — Matt’s been with me going all the way back to when I was working in the front office with the Timberwolves. I brought him on to Iowa State and he’s one of the most important hires I’ve ever made. He does such a good job connecting with kids and getting our foot in the door with some really high-level players. Bobby Lutz, a guy that was actually my first hire at Iowa State — he’d just come off a nine-year run at the University of Charlotte. Great basketball mind, very similar philosophy as far as playing up-tempo and a guy that’s going to be a great sounding board for our entire staff.”
Gates — who accepted the job at Nebraska in May of 2018 — was the only one of Miles’ assistants who attended Hoiberg’s press conference and tagged along for Hoiberg’s visits with Nebraska’s 2019 commits.
“He’s a really high-energy person,” Hoiberg said. “I do think it’s important when you’re taking over a new situation to have some type of continuity. Armon knows the players that are committed here right now. He’s been great. I was really impressed watching him with the workouts that we have with our guys right now. He’s gone out on the road with us and I’ve been really happy with how he’s dealt with recruits and families and that type of thing. Again, a really good person that we feel good about moving forward.”
Sadler resigned from his post as head coach at Southern Miss on Thursday following a 20-13 season, citing the desire to step back from all the responsibilities that come along with running one’s own program.
“Doc’s a comedian,” Hoiberg said. “In a business where you’ve got to keep it light, Doc’s going to keep it light. Being around Doc and having him on my staff at Iowa State for two years, I’m not sure there’s a better defensive mind in basketball and you have to have that. We’re playing against some of the best talent, against some of the best coaches in the country and to have a guy like Doc who’s been in this league and knows everything about that defensive side of the floor, that’s what he brings. He’s also very well connected around the country where he’s been so it really is a great hire for us and he’s such a good person. He’s a down-to-earth guy that everybody can connect with very well in Nebraska from his previous stint here. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a guy as popular that’s been fired and come back at a spot. I’m not sure I’d get that same type of love going back. He’s been awesome. He’s been great with the kids since they’ve been on campus and again, I’m excited about having Doc on my staff.”
Lutz won’t be joining the staff as a full assistant with the ability to go out recruiting, but he will still be involved in everything the Huskers do.
“Bobby is a guy that’s going to help me with our system, style of play,” Hoiberg said. “We’re diving into a lot of film right now and some of that can change based on what our roster is going to look like. Bobby’s doing a bit of everything. He’s helping with scheduling right now and again, he’s just such a knowledgeable person that’s done it at every level. He’s a guy that we hired with the Bulls as well and he was on our Windy City staff.”
This weekend, Hoiberg and his staff are hosting four players — one junior college commit and three sit-out transfers looking for a new home. Jervay Green, a dynamic combo-guard from Western Nebraska Community College, is taking a visit before deciding whether to stick with his commitment or ask for his release and open up his recruitment.
Nebraska is also hosting a pair of freshman forwards from UNLV, Joel Ntambwe (6-foot-9, 210 pounds) and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua (6-foot-8, 230 pounds). Ntambwe averaged 11.8 points and 5.5 rebounds while shooting 38.6 percent from 3 for the Running Rebels this season while Tchatchoua chipped in 3.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.
Rounding out the group is Maurice Calloo, a 6-foot-9, 225-pound forward who was dismissed from Oklahoma State following an alleged incident of vandalism. He initially transferred to Cleveland State but left and enrolled at Indian Hills Community College in Iowa.
“The thing with the visits is we’re just trying to show them everything that will be here for them with their experience and to try to make them well-rounded as far as everything that we have going here,” Hoiberg said. “Meeting with the academic people and the support staff that will be here for them and then just to see the support. I think that’s as important as anything is when you come here and you see 92,000 people at a scrimmage is pretty impressive. We took them over to Pinnacle Bank this morning. The rodeo’s in town — it didn’t smell very good in there but just to see that place… To see 92,000 in here, you just kind of cram that down to 15,000 and you’re going to have that same type of atmosphere for the basketball games. That’s a big part f it — to see the support and the facilities that they’ll be playing in.”
Hoiberg said he was excited to show off what Nebraska has to offer for any prospective student athletes.
“For us, to show these kids the support that they’ll have as a student athlete at the University of Nebraska,” Hoiberg said. “In my opinion, if you look all across the board in all sports here at Nebraska — football, volleyball, basketball, track and field, gymnastics — it’s just all across the board it’s as good of facilities as I’ve ever been a part of.”
Nebraska currently has four open scholarships for 2019 pending Isaiah Roby’s draft decision, Mika Adams-Woods’ decommitment and any further departures from the team.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.