Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

2022-23 Nebrasketball Roster Reviews: Ball-Handlers

March 27, 2023

Year four of Fred Hoiberg at Nebraska is in the books, and it featured a significant step forward. The Cornhuskers finished 16-16 and came up just a win or two shy of qualifying for a postseason tournament.

Before we dive headfirst into the offseason, it’s worth looking back to to break down the season that was to examine the growth made by returners and impact made by newcomers.

First up: the ball-handling guards. 

SR Sam Griesel

12.0 PPG, 44.6% FG (32.3% 3FG), 68.3% FT, 5.8 RPG, 3.8 APG, 2.3 TPG, 1.1 SPG, 33.7 MPG

Sam Griesel became a priority last offseason for Hoiberg as soon as the North Dakota State standout entered his name in the transfer portal, and his one year as a Husker showed why.

The 6-foot-7 point guard earned the chance to live out his dream of playing for the program he grew up cheering for, and he made a sizable impact on and off the court. Griesel was the one who spear-headed the change in culture within the program as his work ethic and selflessness set the tone for the whole team.

On the court, Griesel led the team in minutes and assists and was third in both scoring and rebounding average. He notched two games of 20-plus points and score in double figures 19 times with four double-doubles. 

Griesel certainly saw a drop in scoring efficiency as he made the leap from the Summit League to the Big Ten, but some of his best games came in the team’s biggest wins including Creighton (18 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists), Wisconsin (14 points, seven rebounds, six assists), Rutgers (12 points, 11 rebounds, five assists) and Iowa (16 points on 60% shooting, six rebounds, three assists).

Griesel’s ability to invert the offense and play in the post as a point guard provided a unique wrinkle to Nebraska’s offense, and he also offered versatility on the defensive end as he he guarded power forwards as often as he matched up with point guards.

The Huskers played a more enjoyable brand of basketball this season, focusing more on defensive effort and team play on offense. The fan base seemed to connect with an enjoy watching this team more than any of Hoiberg’s previous squads, and Griesel was a big part of that.

SR Emmanuel Bandoumel

8.4 PPG, 36.0% FG (22.4% 3FG), 75.0% FT, 4.8 RPG, 2.3 APG, 2.0 TPG, 1.0 SPG, 31.1 MPG

Whereas Griesel’s work ethic and personality helped establish the standard for what this team needed to be, it was the other super senior transfer who helped it establish its identity as a defense-first squad.

Bandoumel was the head of the snake defensively for Nebraska, taking on the toughest perimeter assignment (often the point guard) and doing a pretty good job. His tenacity and length on the ball gave a lot of teams trouble, and he played a key role for a team otherwise lacking in lateral quickness. Bandoumel made such an impact that Trev Alberts awarded him a Blackshirt at one point.

Unfortunately, he struggled most of the season on the other end — right up until his season-ending knee injury against Penn State on Jan 21. The injury limited him to 20 games in his lone season as a Husker.

After shooting 35.5% from 3 during his last two seasons at SMU, Bandoumel made just 17 3s in 20 games this season while shooting at a 22.4% clip. He wasn’t great inside the arc either at 47.7%, and the result was an overall field goal percentage of 36. He scored in double figures just nine times with a high of 18, set twice.

In addition to starting at shooting guard, Bandoumel also served as the team’s back-up point guard as Quaran McPherson’s injury and the decisions to redshirt for Ramel Lloyd Jr. and Cale Jacobsen left Hoiberg short on ball-handling options. It wasn’t a natural fit for his skill set, but it’s what the team needed from him.

FR Jamarques Lawrence

5.0 PPG, 40.7% FG (37.3% 3FG), 38.7% FT, 2.2 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.1 TPG, 0.4 SPG, 18.1 MPG

The faces of this team and the ones driving its success this season were its veterans, but perhaps the face of the future is Lawrence. The New Jersey native saw his minutes and production fluctuate throughout the season, but he put together a pretty impressive stretch to finish his freshman year.

Lawrence’s jump shot was his calling card coming out of high school, and he did shoot the ball relatively well from 3 this season at 37.3% (one of just three players to shoot above 33.3% on more than two attempts). However, he showed flashes of his potential as a well-rounded guard capable of impacting the game in multiple ways.

Once Bandoumel went down, Lawrence stepped into the starting lineup and took on the toughest defensive matchup on the perimeter and held his own for the most part. Heals took on some more ball-handling duties. He had eight games with multiple made 3s, but he also showed off the ability to score inside the arc off the bounce, even if it wasn’t yet consistent. 

The 6-foot-3 guard saw double-digit minutes just four times prior to Juwan Gary’s injury with four DNPs mixed in, but he never played less than 15 minutes the rest of the way and saw his role increase even more after Bandoumel went down. He ended up starting the last 12 games of the season, scoring double digits in five of them including the last four.

As a starter, Lawrence averaged 9.0 points on 42.7% from the field including 38.6% from 3, 3.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.8 turnovers in 28.3 minutes per game. He scored a season0high 15 points with just one 3-pointer against Michigan State then followed that up with another 15-point outing against Iowa, shooting 5-of-8 from deep to get there. He also totaled nine rebounds and seven assists in those two games.

Lawrence still has a lot to work on (starting with his free-throw shooting, his assist-to-turnover ratio and his general offensive consistency), but he showed enough in his first season as a Husker to be considered part of the team’s core moving forward and he’ll likely have a significant role next season.

rFR Sam Hoiberg

4.1 PPG, 55.1% FG (40.9% 3FG), 82.1% FT, 1.8 RPG, 0.3 APG, 0.4 TPG, 0.6 SPG, 12.7 MPG

Perhaps the biggest surprise this season was Sam Hoiberg, the son of the head coach who went from a redshirt freshman walk-on playing mostly on the scout team to a key rotation player who spent time in Nebraska’s closing lineups late in the season.

Bandoumel’s injury (which followed Gary’s just a few games prior) left Coach Hoiberg short on available bodies in late January, and so the head coach decided to see what his son could do.

All Hoiberg did was make an immediate impact with six points, six rebounds and an assist in 18 minutes off the bench against Northwestern. He proceeded to play double-digit minutes in every game the rest of the way, logging one start in the process. 

Hoiberg showed the athleticism and craftiness around the basket that made him a tough cover at Lincoln Pius X in high school but also displayed an improved perimeter shot, knocking down nine of the 17 3-pointers he attempted in his last 11 games. He scored a season-high 15 points against Maryland and also hit double figures later in the year with 11 against Minnesota.

In addition to scoring efficiently when he got the chance, Hoiberg also made his presence felt in other ways with a number of hustle plays including steals, charges drawn and scrappy on-ball defense.

In many cases, the walk-on son of the head coach tends to only see the game in garbage time, but Hoiberg stepped in when injury struck and took advantage of the opportunity to establish himself as a key piece of the rotation down the stretch.

rFR Jeffrey Grace III, rFR Quaran McPehrson, FR Ramel Lloyd Jr., FR Cale Jacobsen

Grace, the walk-on transfer from Arizona State and a high school teammate of Sam Hoiberg, is the only one among this last group who saw the court this year. He played 12 minutes in 11 games, scoring four points with a bucket and a pair of free throws.

McPherson saw his season end before it even began thanks to an offseason injury, forcing him to sit out for a second straight season after redshirting his first year.

Lloyd, the highest-ranked member of Nebraska’s 2022 recruiting class, and Jacobsen, the walk-on from Ashland-Greenwood who drew praise from Hoiberg for his work during the preseason, both redshirted this season and will look to make their Husker debuts next year.

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