After an extended wait, Fred Hoiberg finally has his entire roster on campus, and now the work begins.
A lot obviously has happened since the 2019-20 Huskers walked off the floor for the last time back in march. Many of the players who suited up in that Big Ten Tournament loss to Indiana are gone. The Huskers prepared to welcome seven newcomers to the 2020-21 roster, suffered one decommitment from that group then filled the void with a new high school commit.
Most of the team has been on campus for a while with two notable exceptions — senior wing Thorir Thorbjarnarson and sophomore big man Yvan Ouedraogo. The pair of international Huskers were stuck in their home countries of Iceland and France, respectively, thanks to travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The duo finally made their way to Lincoln last week, however, and the Huskers are now at full strength.
Good to be back! ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/cw88ccNHzc
— Thorir Gudmundur (@Totiturbo) July 26, 2020
Let’s get back to work 📍
— Yvan Ouedraogo (@Yvanouedball) July 25, 2020
The @HuskerHoops Twitter account has offered a few brief glimpses into the workouts, which began last week, providing our first look at version 2.0 of the Hoiberg Huskers.
Hey, we missed this.
That's all for now. pic.twitter.com/511m8ZSUW7
— Nebraska Basketball (@HuskerHoops) July 22, 2020
No days off. 😤 pic.twitter.com/xdEDdHqD8D
— Nebraska Basketball (@HuskerHoops) July 24, 2020
The time off to be around their families and recharge their batteries after such a difficult season in 2019-20 was likely much needed for the coaching staff, but now they’re back in the lab and preparing for whatever the future might hold for the Huskers.
In case you forgot what the roster looks like, here’s a quick refresher.
The coaches have spoken highly of Dalano Banton, the former top-100 recruit who spent his freshman season at Western Kentucky before transferring to Nebraska. Banton showed some flashes as a Hilltopper but wasn’t a consistent difference-maker. Now, after a year spent working on his game and strengthening his body, the Huskers need him to live up to the hype.
Nebraska appears poised to roll with Banton as a jumbo-primary initiator at 6-foot-8 and he’ll likely share the ball-handling duties with Western Illinois grad transfer Kobe Webster who Nebraska sees as a valuable off-ball contributor as well with his ability to stretch the floor and knock down jump shots.
One big question mark that remains is the eligibility status of Trey McGowens. The Pitt transfer is hoping to receive a waiver, but I haven’t seen any news about it yet.
[ T-Mac 2 ] » ready to make a statement in the B1G. 📈🌽#Redefine #GBR pic.twitter.com/RxxZPzO0Ro
— Nebraska Basketball (@HuskerHoops) July 23, 2020
McGowens would add another primary initiator option and would give Hoiberg a bit more flexibility with how he deploys Banton and Webster.
Nebraska planned to have Kobe King as another experienced backcourt option and reliable scorer, but he decided not to enroll at Nebraska after all. The Huskers used the scholarship that would have got to him to add another freshman to the class — Elijah Wood. Wood was initially planning to take a prep year at margrave Military Academy, but when Nebraska suddenly had a spot open up for 2020 he jumped on it. At 6-foot-6 and 180 pounds, Wood has the length and the skill set to play either on or off the ball, just like the rest of Nebraska’s backcourt players.
This is where things get really interesting for Hoiberg because he has a lot of viable options at the three and the four. Thorbjarnarson is the most experienced returner who started most of last season as the team’s best 3-point shooter and a smart cutter.
Nebraska thought Nevada transfer Shamiel Stevenson would get a waiver to play right away only to be denied three times. Instead, he redshirted and had to make his impact on the scout team. According to his bio from his time at Pittsburgh, Stevenson brings some unique measurables to the table — 6-foot-6, 245 pounds, 6-foot-11 wingspan, 40-inch max vertical — along with the ability to rebound at a high rate and knock down shots from the perimeter.
Of all Nebraska’s newcomers, Western Nebraska Community College transfer Teddy Allen could make the biggest impact. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he leads the Huskers in scoring. Allen showed as a freshman that, even in a limited role, he could get buckets at the high-major level, and since then he’s had two years of working on his game and rediscovering his perimeter shot. At 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, Hoiberg likes his strength and versatility, seeing him as a wing that could slide down and defend fours if need be as well as handling the ball on the perimeter.
The other junior college transfer is Lat Mayen, a 6-foot-9, 205-pound forward of whom assistant coach Matt Abdelmassih spoke very highly on a recent appearance on the Nick Bahe Podcast. Like Stevenson, Mayen can provide length, shooting and rebounding as well as defensive versatility to Nebraska’s lineup.
Sophomore forward and Omaha native Akol Arop is one of the most explosive athletes on the team and is continuing to refine his skills to fin his place in the rotation. After spending much of the season on the bench, Arop gained some valuable experience down the stretch of his freshman season.
Finally, Trevor Lakes, the sharp-shooting transfer froward from Division II Indianapolis, will redshirt this season while he makes the leap to Division I basketball.
After redshirting last year alongside Banton and Stevenson, Tennessee transfer Derrick Walker is poised to take on an even larger leadership role than he was able to last season. Walker wasn’t a big-time contributor for the Volunteers, but he still gained some valuable experience in a very successful program and brings that to Lincoln as the Hoiberg is trying to get his program off the ground. Walker is expected to be a vocal leader and should be a strong finisher around the basket, something the Huskers lacked in the front court last season.
Yvan Ouedraogo’s freshman season was all over the map. He showed some flashes of the potential the Nebraska coaches saw in the then-17-year-old, but he also struggled to give Nebraska the consistent production it needed in the middle. Though Ouedraogo has been stuck at home, he hasn’t let that time go to waste, reportedly dropping 25 pounds after spending his freshman season at a listed 260.
Hard work made me 🦍 🐰 pic.twitter.com/tUehT9dUlF
— Yvan Ouedraogo (@Yvanouedball) July 9, 2020
The final piece to this puzzle is Eduardo Andre. Nebraska went hard after a highly-touted center recruit in Adama Sanogo but came up a bit short as Sanogo chose UConn over Nebraska and Seton Hall most notably. The Huskers quickly pivoted to Andre, however, and landed the 6-foot-10, 220-pound center prospect from AZ Compass Prep. Andre is still fairly raw as he didn’t start playing basketball until he was 14 years old, but he has a lot of upside with the ability to rebound at a high level and protect the rim.
In-state walk-ons Jace Piatkowski and Bret Porter both redshirted last season. The Husker legacies both spent all last season working on their games and getting the starters ready to play with their work on the scout team. Piatkowski is 6-foot-4 and 175 pounds with significant bounce and the ability to get hot from the perimeter while Porter is 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds with a lot of offensive creativity on the interior.
The Huskers lost former walk-on turned scholarship player Charlie Easley to transfer as he left for a bigger role and a guaranteed scholarship at South Dakota State, but Nebraska added another walk-on to replace him this offseason. Chris McGraw is a 5-foot-11, 175-pound guard from Columbus, Ohio, who spent his freshman season as a walk-on at Ohio before transferring to Division III Otterbein. He sat out last season with an injury and will be a sophomore at Nebraska.
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.