Photo Credit: John Peterson

Padding the Stats: On Scheierman’s Decision, Culture and Nebrasketball’s Future

May 04, 2022

Fred Hoiberg and his staff have done some good work on the recruiting trail this offseason. 

They managed to retain the entire 2022 signing class following the departure of the class’s primary recruiter, Matt Abdelmassih. They’ve also added two new players to the class via the transfer portal. Currently, there’s one scholarship left open.

For all the good they’ve done, though, the Huskers have missed out on a couple of significant targets in the portal that would have fit the roster’s biggest need following Bryce McGowens’s entry into the NBA Draft: a No. 1 offensive option.

Their first target was Illinois State transfer Antonio Reeves, who scored 20.1 points per game on a 58.1 true shooting percentage. The Huskers got him on campus for a visit and delivered their pitch, but then a blue blood in Kentucky swooped in a secured a commitment from him following Shaedon Sharpe’s decision to enter the draft. Tough luck, but it’s going to be hard to beat out the Wildcats when they have a significant role to offer.

Then South Dakota State star and Aurora native Baylor Scheierman made waves when he decided to enter the portal. Nebraska quickly reached out, as did Creighton and so many others that reporters weren’t able to fit them all into a single tweet.

The Huskers made the list each time Scheierman cut down his options, but he ultimately chose to commit to Creighton on Tuesday morning, with the Huskers seeming to be the runner-up.

Scheierman, who has entered the draft and is still going through the process now, is working with Adam Papas, the same agent who represented Kansas State transfer Nigel Pack as he negotiated a two-year, $800,000 NIL deal with Miami booster John Ruiz to play for the Hurricanes. There was plenty of speculation floating around about NIL demands and crazy figures for the former Jackrabbit, but from my understanding this wasn’t a case of Scheierman choosing the highest bidder. Other boosters/collectives offered more on behalf of their programs than Creighton did.

While he will be well compensated for his time at Creighton should he choose to withdraw from the draft and play for the Bluejays next year, this was a basketball decision. He chose the school that checked the most boxes on his list.

Creighton is coming off a 23-win season and an NCAA tournament appearance, where the Jays took eventual national championship Kansas down to the wire without two starters in the round of 32. They return five of their top seven including three Big East All-Freshman team members and have made some key additions. Even before Scheierman’s commitment you would have found Creighton in the top 10 or 15 of most early preseason 2022-23 rankings. Expectations will be higher than maybe every before in Omaha.

After his commitment, Scheierman spoke with the Omaha World-Herald about his decision.

“The biggest separator was the culture,” Baylor Scheierman said. “Coach Hoiberg’s trying to build that culture with Nebrasketball. Creighton has already established its culture.”

That culture he speaks of at Creighton is one of success. The Jays lost five starters from a Sweet 16 team then turned around and won 23 games with a whole new lineup featuring three true freshmen playing key roles this past season. That track record of success, Greg McDermott’s shooter-friendly system and the potential for a special season in 2022-23 seemed to be too much for Scheierman to turn down as he sought an opportunity to raise his profile and improve his stock for the next level.

Conversely, Nebraska won just 10 games last season despite enrolling the best recruiting class in modern program history headlined by a 5-star recruit in McGowens. Nebraska made just minor progress in year three for Hoiberg in Lincoln, which was a giant missed opportunity in my opinion considering McGowens was always going to be a one-and-done prospect.

McDermott is heading into his 13th season at Creighton and the Jays have made the NCAA Tournament in eight of the past 11 years (I’m including the year the tournament didn’t happen since Creighton would have made it). Hoiberg is still trying to find his footing in Lincoln. That’s what Scheierman was getting at.

However, Scheierman wasn’t the only Nebraska native from the Summit League who entered the transfer portal this offseason, and the other was more receptive to Nebraska’s pitch. Sam Griesel did choose the Huskers (Creighton and others also reached out to the Lincoln East and former North Dakota State standout).

Griesel also talked about Nebraska’s culture after his commitment.

“Honestly, a big part of part of it is being a Nebraska kid and and knowing the narrative around Nebraska basketball the last five to 10 years, and I have a big dream of coming in and kind of changing that narrative and really helping the culture aspect out of this place and just making a lasting impact on Nebraska basketball, even in a year,” Griesel told Hail Varsity.

Griesel grew up in Lincoln as a Husker fan and has close family ties to the program, and that, combined with the role Hoiberg offered him and the system fit were enough to secure his commitment. While Scheierman is also a Nebraska native and playing close to home appealed to him, he didn’t have the same ties to the program.

Nebraska still has one scholarship left to fill. Trey McGowens is continuing to go through the pre-draft process and evaluate his professional options. I’d anticipate Nebraska will remain active in the portal looking to fill that spot, though I’m not sure who their next target will be just yet.

As Scheierman said, Hoiberg is still trying to build the culture he wants in Lincoln, and it’s vital for future recruiting efforts that next season shows steady progression in that area. Derrick Walker’s return coupled with Griesel’s arrival should help in terms of leadership and setting an example. Hoiberg needs the incoming class plus the young returners from last season to form a strong core for his program moving forward. Posting an impressive record is ultimately the goal and a sign that things are on the right track, but that won’t happen until they start doing the little things consistently, regardless of their present talent level.

Nebraska’s program wasn’t yet in a position to win a recruiting battle for Baylor Scheierman this offseason. The goal now is to make sure that isn’t the case the next time a Scheierman comes around and considers the Huskers.

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