Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Hoiberg, Huskers Navigating Unique Spring Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

April 23, 2020

Under normal circumstances, Coach Fred Hoiberg would spend his spring guiding his returning players through skill development workouts, hosting visitors and hitting the recruiting trail during live periods. However, the current circumstances are anything but normal.

Hoiberg spoke to reporters recently and shared what his schedule looks like as he navigates the national shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I wake up a 7, I watch Good Morning America, I drink a cup of coffee, I get on the Peloton and try to get that out of the way — if I don’t do it then I don’t get it done — and then I start making calls as far as recruiting, my staff and just talking about daily updates as far as with our administrators,” Hoiberg said. “Then I’ll get on the computer and watch film, either our stuff from last year or the projects that we’re working on right now. Then sometimes I feel like I did last year after I was let go, I’ll start doing a puzzle and drinking another cup of coffee. It’s really weird.”

Like many Americans, keeping up with the latest updates on COVID-19 is a big part of Hoiberg’s day.

“It’s a crazy time but hopefully with everything that’s going on right now, with the numbers we’re seeing, I’m glued to the news,” Hoiberg said. “My kids, I’m driving them nuts by waiting to see Dr. Fauci give his daily updates. It’s just a bizarre time but hopefully if everybody continues to adhere by the rules and continues to do the social distancing we can get this thing behind us here soon.”

As of now, Hoiberg is planning for his players to return to campus on June 6, but obviously everything is fluid. For now, he’s communicating with his players over Zoom calls and FaceTime and trying to help them navigate their individual situations.

“We’re going to do everything we can to try to give our guys the means to get their workouts in based on what equipment they have in their homes,” Hoiberg said. “We’ve been doing that with our players that are coming back but we’re trying to help our guys to give them some kind of foundation for when they get back to where we can hit the ground running and hopefully start workouts in that early part of June. But we don’t know as far as everything that’s going to happen moving forward.”

The country may have been shut down for over a month, but that doesn’t mean Hoiberg’s been spending all of his time on puzzles. With two seniors and now five transfers leaving the program, Hoiberg and his staff had a lot of work to do to put together a recruiting class. Junior college commits Teddy Allen and Lat Mayen committed during the season, as did Wisconsin transfer Kobe King. Western Illinois graduate transfer Kobe Webster and Pittsburgh transfer Trey McGowens both committed after the season. Nebraska is still working to fill the last two scholarships as well as working ahead to the 2021 class.

“It’s so unique with what’s going on right now as far as a lot of these guys have not set foot on campus,” Hoiberg said. “The way we’re trying to operate with recruiting right now is through FaceTime calls, through Zoom calls showing them film and what our system is all about and then doing virtual tours of the campus and facilities. We feel very fortunate with the class that we put together without being able to get three of the guys on campus. But they love what they heard and they liked what they saw on film as far as what the system is and how they would fit in with their skill set and how hopefully we can put them in a position to be successful.”

As different as recruiting is right now, it’s at least a level playing field for everyone — no visits across the board.

“It’s just about trying to build relationships with a lot of these players over the phone, and not just with this class but with future classes … We’re just trying to be as creative as possible and get as much done in our homes and in their homes,” Hoiberg said. “Most of these guys are home; there are a couple that were still finishing some things up on campus early in the process. But we’re very fortunate, we feel, for the class that we put together.”

As the coaches continue working to fill out the roster, they’re getting a bit more leeway to work with their current players as well. The NCAA is now allowing coaching to meet digitally with student-athletes for up to eight hours per week, a rule change that went into effect on Monday.

“Going back and watching it, reflecting on what happened this season, I’m in the process of putting together, from every game, a play book of things that I liked and things that we did not do well and things we need to get better at,” Hoiberg said. “I’m going to start watching film with the five guys and try to teach them a little bit about the system through this — hell, I didn’t know what Zoom was. I didn’t know what that meant. That’s what I call a dribble handoff is Zoom. I didn’t know this thing was something you could do and I can share my screen and show video and film, so I’m going to start showing the system… 

“We’re going to start diving into what we’re all about.”

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