Assessing Nebraska's Frontcourt Situation for 2019-20
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Nebraska Working to Reset the Roster for 2019-20 Season

April 29, 2019

Nebraska’s new coaches have been pretty busy over the last few weeks. When things settled down following Fred Hoiberg’s introduction as Nebraska’s 28th head men’s basketball coach, he had inherited half a basketball roster. 

Four scholarship seniors graduated, two underclassmen decided to transfer and one 2019 signee re-opened his recruitment. That doesn’t even factor in Isaiah Roby, who has declared for the NBA Draft and reportedly received an invitation to the NBA Combine. 

That left the coaches with seven (and possibly eight if Roby remains in the draft) open scholarships to fill. They went to work right away trying to reaffirm commitments from the players that signed under Tim Miles’ staff. Omaha Creighton Prep forward Akol Arop did so when Hoiberg visited him and Western Nebraska Community College guard Jervay Green followed suit after taking another visit to campus.

After that, the coaches turned their attention primarily to transfer targets with an emphasis on graduate transfers who can play right away. Florida Gulf Coast guard Haanif Cheatham committed during his visit on April 20. Matej Kavas, a 6-foot-8 sharp-shooter from Seattle University, visited the weekend of Nebraska’s spring game and committed last Friday.

The coaches went back to the junior college ranks for their newest addition, landing a point guard to pair with Green in the backcourt. Cam Mack, the third-ranked junior college prospect according to JUCORecruiting.com (Green is eighth), originally committed to St. John’s while Matt Abdelmassih was there. But after Abdelmassih left for Nebraska and head coach Chris Mullin resigned, Mack reopened his recruitment. Abdelmassih got in his hear and brought him in for a visit this past weekend, and Nebraska made enough of an impression for Mack to commit during his visit.

Nebraska made his signing official on Monday.

That leaves Nebraska with two open scholarships at the moment. Here’s a look at where the roster stands:

Guards (4): Cam Mack (SO), Jervay Green (JR), Dachon Burke (JR), Haanif Cheatham (SR)

Wings (4): Amir Harris (SO), Thorir Thorbjarnarson (JR), Karrington Davis (rFR), Akol Arop (FR)

Forwards/Centers (3): Isaiah Roby (SR), Brady Heiman (SO), Matej Kavas (SR)

As of now, Nebraska has two open scholarships for 2019-20. However, at this point it seems more likely that Roby remains in the draft as opposed to returning to Nebraska for his senior year. That leaves a huge hole in the lineup and one the coaches have to plan for no matter what. 

We also can’t rule out further attrition. Dachon Burke has expressed his commitment to the program publicly, but things have been pretty quiet regarding the other returners. Last week was the final week of classes at Nebraska-Lincoln and this week is finals week. If there are going to be any further departures, I’m guessing we’ll learn about them soon.

The Huskers have brought in a handful of potential sit-out transfer targets the past few weeks (UNLV’s Joel Ntambwe and Jonathan Tchatchoua, Oklahoma State’s Maurice Calloo, Western Kentucky’s Dalano Banton) and have reached out to several more, and this staff likes to bring in at least two of them every cycle to balance the roster.

The coaches still have some work to do. Not including Roby, they currently have two players who are taller than 6-foot-6. Hoiberg isn’t afraid to play small, but that might be pushing it a bit. The Huskers have now had a few different players on campus that could provide a little more size.

Jayce Johnson, a 7-foot, 235-pound center from Utah, is looking for a new home to spend his graduate season, and he was in Lincoln over the weekend. Johnson averaged 7.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 21.9 minutes per game as a junior for the Utes. After checking out Nebraska, he’s reportedly headed to Marquette next weekend.

The Huskers also hosted two 2019 recruits over the weekend in Kevin Cross and Yvan Ouedraogo. Cross is a 6-foot-8, 240-pound power forward from Little Rock, Arkansas. Illinois and Oklahoma State have offered Cross and he visited Southern Miss while Nebraska assistant Doc Sadler was still the head coach there. Ouedraogo is a 6-foot-8, 230-pound forward from France who originally narrowed his list to three (Georgia Tech, TCU and Vanderbilt) but was interested enough in what Nebraska had to say to take a visit.

Nebraska is focused mainly on filling out its roster for this coming season with three of the four full-time coaches staying in Lincoln to host the visitors. However, they haven’t ignored long-term recruiting as Armon Gates was out on the road over the weekend for the first live recruiting period of the AAU season.

The coaches hosted 2020 commit D’Andre Davis from Indianapolis recently and he reaffirmed his commitment. Hoiberg also met with Nebraska’s other 2020 commit in Lincoln North Star’s Donovan Williams after the 6-foot-5 guard tore his ACL in mid-April. Williams’ surgery is set for Tuesday and in the meantime he’s been doing plenty of peer recruiting on Twitter.

Nebraska has issued several offers in the 2020 class since taking over with most of them going to prospects in Georgia, Minnesota and Missouri. Dawson Garcia, Ben Carlson, Kerwin Walton, Luke Kasubke and Deivion Smith are just a few of the names to keep any eye out for in that class.

With Mack, Green, Burke and Cheatham, the Huskers have a strong, experienced backcourt to build around. Kavas is more of a wing than an interior player, but at 6-foot-8 with a career 44.7 3-point percentage, he’s likely to be used as a stretch-four in Hoiberg’s offense. Beyond that, the coaches have a lot of work to do in either recruiting or development to get the Huskers ready for the 2019-20 season. The summer trip to Italy will be valuable for both the coaches and the players as they get to know each other.

But Nebraska has to round out its roster before we get there, and they’re inching closer to doing so with each passing weekend.

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