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.
The offseason is under way, but before we can project what next season might look like we need to look back and evaluate this past season.
We’ve already broken down the ball-handlers. Up next is a look at the wings.
JR Keisei Tominaga
13.1 PPG, 50.3% FG (40% 3FG), 86.8% FT, 1.6 RPB, 0.7 APG, 0.8 TPG, 0.6 SPG, 25.1 MPG
The story of the second half of the season was undoubtedly the man nicknamed the Japanese Steph Curry. He fell just two made free throws short of producing a 50-40-90 shooting season while emerging as the team’s second-leading scorer (and leading scorer down the stretch run of the season).
Tominaga showed flashes of his shooting ability during his first season as a Husker but wasn’t able to find any kind of consistency. That up-and-down nature of his game continued into this past season as he reached double figures in eight of his first 17 games. He averaged 9.5 points on 46.1% shooting (36.4% from 3) in 19.6 minutes per game overall — solid numbers for a role player, but hardly those of a difference-maker.
Tominaga hit a rough stretch at the start of Big Ten play, notching four straight games with six points or less. Then a switch seemed to flip as Tominaga went on a tear to finish the season. He failed to reach double digits scoring in just one of his last 15 games, averaging 17.3 points on 53.4% shooting (42.4% from 3) during that span.
He elevated his game even more over his last nine, emerging as one of the deadliest scorers in the entire conference as he averaged 20.3 points on 55.7% from the field including 43.1% from deep. Tominaga cracked the 20-point threshold nine times this season, seven of which came in that final nine-game stretch including five straight at one point.
He went off for a career-high 30 points at home in a win over Penn State on Feb. 5, shooting 12-of-18 from the field (5-of-10 from 3) and 1-of-2 from the foul line. That was one of eight games this season where he’s knocked down at least four 3-pointers.
Tominaga showed this season that he is far more than just a 3-point shooter as well, converting 62.4% of his 2-point shots including a 72.3% mark at the rim. He’s a terrific cutter who became point-forward Derrick Walker’s favorite target this season and he even showed some flashes of creating his own offense off the dribble.
Tominaga’s future is the biggest question mark hanging over the program right now. It would be a huge boost for Fred Hoiberg and the Huskers to get him back for a fifth collegiate season.
JR Juwan Gary
9.5 PPG, 43.5% FG (26.3% 3FG), 62.1% FT, 6.5 RPG, 0.8 APG, 0.9 TPG, 1.4 SPG, 29.5 MPG
The Alabama transfer opened the season as the starting four-man and played a significant role in Nebraska’s identity shift. He was one of the two players Athletic Director Trev Alberts chose to award a Blackshirt based on his defensive performance and he finished second on the team in rebounding average.
Gary scored in double figures in nine of his 17 games with a high of 18 scored against Minnesota, one game before the season ending shoulder injury he suffered against Illinois. He notched a double-double in his Husker debut with 14 points and 11 rebounds against Maine and fell either a bucket or a board shy of the double-double in three other games this season.
Gary was at his best when he was cutting to the rim or crashing the offensive glass, shooting 64.4% on shots at the rim, according to Hoop-Math.com. Unfortunately, improvement in his jump shot never really materialized as he shot 35.5% on 2-point jumpers and 26.3% on 3s.
Gary is set to return and play a key roe for the Huskers next season, and the Huskers would benefit greatly if he is able to either improve the jumper (and his free-throw stroke) or play more within himself to increase his rim attempts and decrease his jump-shot rate.
JR C.J. Wilcher
8.0 PPG, 39.9% FG (31.3% 3FG), 63.9% FT, 2.4 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.5 PG, 0.6 SPG, 27.2 MPG
The offseason talk with Wilcher centered on his improved fitness level and slimmed-down frame, but unfortunately that didn’t translate to the kind of season he and the Huskers were likely hoping for. He payed in every game with 24 starts, but his playing time only took a slight uptick (from 24.6 minutes per game to 27.2) and he took a step backward rather than forward.
Wilcher scored three fewer points in nearly 100 more minutes this season, largely because the 3-ball just didn’t go down for him on any kind of consistent basis. After shooting 40.6% from 3 (including 48.8% from from February on) during his first season as a Husker, Wilcher shot just 31.3% on nearly the same volume this year.
Wilcher shot nearly 51% inside the arc and upped his assist average from 0.8 to 1.4, but he attempted just 3.3 2-pointers per game (compared to 4.2 3s) and still finished with a negative assist-to-turnover ratio.
Wilcher scored in double figures in 10 games this season with a high of 22 against Indiana. He came up big in Nebraska’s win at Rutgers, scoring 17 points while hitting a career-high five triples (in nine attempts). Defensively, Wilcher still isn’t the fleetest of foot which makes it difficult for him to stay in front of quick defenders or close out to shooters without getting beat.
If Wilcher is still playing a significant role next season, the Huskers are going to need him to take a big step forward, and that more or less comes down to the 3-ball falling once again.
rFR Denim Dawson
1.7 PPG, 35.4% FG (31.3% 3FG), 40% FT, 1.8 APG, 0.4 APG, 0.7 TPG, 0.3 SPG, 14.1 MPG
Dawson’s redshirt freshman season was a bit of a roller coaster ride. He started out playing big minutes off the bench in his first five games, then saw his playing time reduced for an extended stretch, then moved into the starting lineup after Juwan Gary’s injury, then more or less fell out of the rotation during the stretch run of the season.
The coaches spoke highly of Dawson’s athleticism and defensive ability, and he took on tough assignments one through four while he was on the floor. However, he struggled mightily to contribute on the offensive end, topping out at eight points in his second game and going scoreless in 16 of his 28 appearances.
Dawson produced some of the most impressive buckets of the season, but in between the highlights was a lot of inefficiency as he shot just 5-of-16 from 3, 12-of-3 from 2 and 8-of-2 from the free-throw line. He also had 2 turnovers to just 12 assists.
Dawson entered the transfer portal on March 15, ending his time as a Husker at one and a half seasons.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. 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.