Nebraska fans will get their first look at the 2022-23 Cornhuskers on Sunday afternoon as the team takes on Chadron State in its first exhibition game.
Fred Hoiberg added another large group of newcomers to a small core of returning impact players, and the offseason points of emphasis were all about defense, rebounding and toughness. The plan is for this team to look very different than the one fans watched in 2021-22.
To get you ready for what you’re going to see at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Sunday, we’re going through the roster, player by player, and we’re splitting it into three groups. We’ve covered the bigs and the wings, leaving just the ball-handlers.
No. 5 Sam Griesel (senior, 6-foot-7, 216 pounds)
2021-22 stats: 14.3 PPG, 48.2% FG (37.9% 3FG), 75.6% FT, 6.6 RPG, 3.4 APG, 2.0 TPG, 0.8 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 33.4 MPG
Fred Hoiberg has had a different starting point guard each season he’s been in Lincoln, and Sam Griesel, the Lincoln East graduate and North Dakota State transfer, is the latest. Whereas Cam Mack and Alonzo Verge Jr. were cut from a somewhat similar cloth, Griesel compares more closely to some other points guards that Hoiberg has coached both in Lincoln and at Iowa State.
“You can certainly post him if he’s being guarded by a smaller guy,” Hoiberg said. “He’s always going to make the right decision. I’ve had big guards — I had DeAndre [Kane], I had Dalano [Banton] who we never really got a true look at who Dalano is today because of the the COVID year and how hard it hit him, but there were some unique things we did with Dalano that season. He can guard multiple positions. When you have that type of length it can allow you to switch.”
Griesel has the ability to run a pick-and-roll just as well as he can back his man down in the post, and Hoiberg plans to run the offense through through him.
“He’s going to have the ball in his hands when he’s on the floor more often than not,” Hoiberg said. “Sam, to me, his biggest impact is you can’t speed him up, and he just he’s so poised with the ball in his hands. In our two scrimmages he has zero turnovers so far. So when your your lead guard takes care of the ball and can get you into an offense, that’s huge. Just the poise he has, making sure guys are in the right spot, and then going out and executing the play.”
Hoiberg said that at Big Ten Media Days. Griesel did finally turn the ball over during the team’s third scrimmage, but he’s continued to build up chemistry with his teammates, including sharpshooter C.J. Wilcher.
“That’s my guy,” Wilcher said about Griesel. “I enjoy playing with Sam, and then off the court he’s a great dude. But on the court, it’s always dope to play with him. He always finds me. He doesn’t give himself enough credit for how vocal he is. I said this yesterday, he’s really vocal in terms of in huddles and even on the court. I could play with him in terms of he just gives me a lot of confidence, a lot of energy.”
Griesel didn’t slide into the point guard position until midway through his career at North Dakota State, and he took a big leap this past season. Hoiberg said he’s going to have to get used to the difference in size and athleticism as he makes the leap from the Summit League to the Big Ten, but the coach doesn’t want his point guard to change anything about his approach to the game.
“Even though he’s a low volume guy [from 3], he’s a high percentage guy, and he takes the right shots,” Hoiberg said. “His big thing is getting others involved, but you look at as overall stat-line and what he did, not only the points but percentages, the rebounding, the assists and he’s a high assist-to-turnover guy. He does everything and that’s certainly shown so far in practices.”
No. 25 Emmanuel Bandoumel (senior, 6-foot-4, 187 pounds)
2021-22 stats: 10.6 PPG, 36.1% FG (35.2% 3FG), 82.3% FT, 3.8 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.3 TPG, 0.6 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 30.8 MPG
Bandoumel will start in the backcourt alongside Griesel after transferring from SMU. He was primarily an off-ball guard with the Mustangs while playing with a terrific point guard in Kendrick Davis. He’s a bouncy athlete who isn’t afraid to let it fly from deep. He’ll likely step into Trey McGowens’ shoes as the team’s top perimeter defender.
“Emmanuel is a really high-energy guy, he’s a really good defender and brings a lot of energy on that side of the floor,” Griesel said. “I’ve been really impressed with his shot-making ability as well.”
Another part of his game has caught Hoiberg’s attention, however, and it has him in line to potentially be the primary back-up point guard as well.
“One that’s actually been really good with the ball in his hands is Emmanuel,” Hoiberg said. “We saw some of that last year; he played with a great point guard at SMU that’s now playing at Memphis that had the ball in his hands most of the time. When Emmanuel had opportunities, we saw that he was a very good playmaker, and so we’ve put some of that responsibility on him.”
Bandoumel showed some promise in the pick-and-roll and a good feel for reading the floor and finding his teammates in the opportunities he got at SMU to play with the ball in his hands, but the sample size was small and it was in the AAC.
The leap from the American to the Big Ten isn’t as steep as it is from the Summit, but Bandoumel will still be playing against a higher level of competition night in and night out than he’s faced to this point in his college career. He’ll play an important role both on and off the court this season as one of three super seniors on the roster.
No. 3 Quaran McPherson (redshirt freshman, 6-foot-3, 197 pounds)
McPherson brought a lot of energy and defensive intensity to the practice court during his redshirt season, and he looked poised to compete for point guard minutes behind Griesel. However, he suffered a season-ending injury while training back at home during the offseason.
Now, this season will be about getting back to full strength and polishing up whatever skills he can rather than competing for playing time.
“He’s good,” said C.J. Wilcher, who was close with McPherson before he even arrived in Lincoln. “His process has been going a lot faster than expected, honestly. He’s back walking and it’s like four or five weeks out of surgery. So I’m happy for him. He’s taking it head on and I’m just happy for him. He’s in good spirits.”
No. 2 Ramel Lloyd Jr. (freshman, 6-foot-6, 204 pounds)
Lloyd was the top-rated high school recruit in Nebraska’s 2022 class, ranked 104th in the 247Sports Composite. He spent his last two years of high school at prep powerhouse Sierra Canyon playing alongside and against a number of other Division I athletes.
At 6-foot-6, Lloyd provides positional flexibility with the ability to play on and off the ball and defense multiple positions.
No. 31 Cale Jacobsen (freshman, 6-foot-4, 194 pounds)
The Ashland-Greenwood graduate chose to walk on at Nebraska over other scholarship offers (including one from North Dakota), but he hasn’t been spoken of like a typical walk-on. Hoiberg’s made sure to bring his name up any time he’s talked about the freshmen that are on scholarship and has praised the work he’s put on throughout the offseason.
Jacobsen is a strong, well-rounded guard who can impact the game in a lot of ways with his physicality and feel. He’s now roughly 18 months removed from the ACL injury that cost him his junior season of high school and stalled his recruitment.
“Cale’s solid,” Wilcher said. “He makes the right decision probably 90% of the time, 95% of the time. He always finds me, so I like playing with him. But Cale’s solid. He guards, he can pass it. He’s getting more confident in his jump shot too. So that’ll make him a threat as well, so he’s definitely stepping into his own.”
It seems like Bandoumel will get the first crack at running the offense while Griesel is on the bench, but Lloyd and Jacobsen could both get chances to show Hoiberg what they can do in that role during the exhibition and nonconference.
“Ramel’s feel, he’s really coming along,” Hoiberg said. “He’s playing a lot of point guard right now out there on the floor. Cale’s just a rock-solid player out there. With Quaran out, we’ll see who the guys are that demand those minutes. Emmanuel can certainly give us stretches; he’s played a lot with the ball in his hands as well. So we’ve got some options there. Now it’s about who you can trust once we once we get to live action. But I’m really happy with our freshmen and where they are right now.”
No. 1 Sam Hoiberg (redshirt freshman, 6-foot, 180 pounds)
Sam Hoiberg is heading into the second season playing for his dad as a walk-on after redshirting last season. He’s the only walk-on who has a year in the program under his belt and probably knows better than anyone what Coach Hoiberg wants to see out on the court and in the practice facility.
For those that didn’t see Hoiberg play at Lincoln Pius X, he’s a downhill type of point guard with deceptive bounce. He told me he was focusing on polishing up his ball-handing and decision-making and becoming a knockdown shooter during his redshirt year.
No. 24 Jeffrey Grace III (redshirt freshman, 6-foot-3, 195 pounds)
Grace is a newcomer to the program after redshirting last season at Arizona State. When he decided to enter the transfer portal, he landed at Nebraska, where he found some familiar faces in the Hoiberg family. Grace played summer ball in high school with Hoiberg at Breakaway Basketball in Chicago.
Grace should provide another versatile guard option for the scout team this season.
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.