The long offseason is almost over. In two short days, Fred Hoiberg’s Huskers are scheduled to tip off the 2020-21 season at home against McNeese State. To get you ready for what you’re going to see, we’re offering you a refresher course in three installments on the new-look roster.
On Monday, we broke down the backcourt. Today?
Senior: Thorir Thorbjarnarson (6-foot-6, 202 pounds), Trevor Lakes (6-foot-7, 215 pounds)
Junior: Teddy Allen (6-foot-6, 223 pounds), Lat Mayen (6-foot-9, 205 pounds), Shamiel Stevenson (6-foot-6, 245 pounds)
Sophomore: Akol Arop (6-foot-5, 203 pounds)
Freshman: Bret Porter (6-foot-5, 228 pounds)
Thorir Thorbjarnarson was the only player who logged any playing time for Tim Miles that Fred Hoiberg kept in the program, and now he’s heading into his senior season. The Icelandic wing proved to be a good fit for Hoiberg’s up-tempo, ball movement-oriented, slacking-dependent system and emerged as a starter before the end of nonconference play.
Thorbjarnarson was the team’s best 3-point shooter last season, shooting 37.2% on 4.0 attempts per game. He was over 40% for much of the year before a late-season slump. He’s also a smart cutter who averaged 8.8 points and 4.8 rebounds in 29.2 minutes per game. Whether he starts or comes off the bench, Thorbjarnarson will be an important rotation player for Nebraska.
“I thought Thor had a terrific year for us a year ago,” Fred Hoiberg said. “He was really the guy that was Mr. Reliable for us because of everything that he did. He’s always in the right spot, you never have to worry about coaching him and Thor knowing where to be. He has that very high, innate basketball IQ. He knows how to read situations, he’s a very good passer on the floor, he shot the ball at an incredibly high clip really until about the last week of the season where he went into a little bit of a slump.
“But anybody that can space the floor for our playmakers … we’re going to need those guys on the floor. Thor going into now his fourth year and being a guy that’s been through the battles of this league, he knows what it’s all about so he certainly can help our guys navigate through some of the growing pains of some of our younger players and guys that will be in this league for the first time.”
If I had to bet on who would lead this team in scoring, I’d take Teddy “Buckets” Allen. The transfer from Western Nebraska Community College should step in as a difference-maker from day one in Lincoln after a prolific junior season for the Cougars.
Allen showed off his all-around scoring ability in Nebraska’s first officiated team scrimmage a couple weeks ago, scoring 29 points on 11-of-21 from the field, 4-of-11 from 3 and 3-of-4 from the free-throw line. The physical wing also grabbed seven boards, dished out three assists and secured two steals for the Red team.
“Teddy had 29 in our scrimmage,” Hoiberg said. “He was terrific. Our guys, I thought, didn’t press the issue. It wasn’t like he went out there and came down and just fired up shots the entire scrimmage. I thought guys moved the ball really well; he was the benefactor of a lot of that good ball movement, shot the ball extremely well. We did some man-to-man work, zone work, obviously preparing for anything, and he looked really good in both of those situations.”
Allen is strong enough to hold his own as a small-ball four and skilled enough to bring the ball up the floor and create offense off the bounce. Allen’s versatility and ability to score in several different ways makes him a great fit for Hoiberg’s offense.
However, Lat Mayen might be the addition that will allow the Huskers to play the way Hoiberg really wants. The 6-foot-9 transfer from Chipola College may be slight, but he’s a sniper from the perimeter and has been the best defensive rebounder on the team, according to Hoiberg.
Mayen averaged 11.8 points and 8.4 rebounds last season at Chipola, corralling double-digit rebounds in 11 games. He may be slight, but at 6-foot-9, he can hold his own in the paint thanks to his length as well as stay in front of perimeter players on switches.
Offensively, Hoiberg has spoken of Mayen’s shooting prowess many times throughout the offseason, referencing the 86-out-of-100 and 83-out-of-100 performances in a 3-point shooting drill the team does. He shot 38.4% from 3 on 3.5 attempts per game at Chipola.
Mayen unlocks the ability to maximize spacing on the offensive end without sacrificing defensive versatility or rebounding on the other end, which makes him a likely starter at power forward. He could also slide over to the five depending on the matchups.
“We’ll have opportunities maybe to slide Lat, at 6-9, a guy that’s been maybe as consistent as anybody on our team that can really space the floor,” Hoiberg said. “He can really, really shoot the basketball. He’s one of those guys that when he’s open and he shoots it you’re surprised if it doesn’t go in. So to have that luxury, a guy I know is going to battle every time he steps on the floor from a defensive standpoint, but also create opportunities on the offensive end for a mismatch.”
Shamiel Stevenson likely would have played a big role for the Huskers had he received his waiver for immediate eligibility last season, but the NCAA denied his request three times and so he spent the year on the practice squad redshirting alongside Dalano Banton and Derrick Walker. Now he’s ready to show Nebraska fans what he’s capable of.
At 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds with long arms, Stevenson is unlike any other player on the team from a physical standpoint. He’s strong and athletic and should be a weapon for the Huskers in the open floor. He averaged 8.5 points and 4.4 rebounds in 23.8 minutes per game as a freshman at Pittsburgh, and he shot 16-of-41 (39%) from 3 during his time as a Panther.
“Shamiel, he’s an explosive player,” Allen said. “Very skilled. He’s really explosive at his size. He gets up as much as anybody and he has a lot of power to his game to go along with skill. He’s a pretty unique player.”
Unfortunately, the Huskers will be without arguably their most explosive athlete on the wing this season as sophomore Akol Arop underwent season-ending surgery recently to clean up a chronic knee issue.
Trevor Lakes, the transfer from Division II Indianapolis, will redshirt this season and focus on building up his body and preparing himself for the rigors of the Big Ten. He’s first and foremost a terrific perimeter shooter, knocking down 253 triples at a 41% clip during his first three seasons.
Bret Porter, a walk-on from Millard North, redshirted last season and brings physicality and offensive craftiness to the group.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. 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.