For 15 months, the NCAA put in-person recruiting on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The dead period finally came to an end at the start of June and Fred Hoiberg and his staff hit the ground running, hosting visitors — official and unofficial — all throughout the month.
Nebraska already has a center committed in the 2022 class in Blaise Keita plus two young posts with freshman eligibility already on the roster in Eduardo Andre and Oleg Kojenets. The Huskers are looking at every other position to add talent, however, as the list of visitors might indicate.
The month started with an official visit for one of the staff’s biggest priorities, Grand island wing Isaac Traudt, June 4-6. Traudt, a 6-foot-9 wing, is ranked 62nd in the country according to the 247Sports Composite.
Chance Westry, a 6-foot-4 guard from Chatsworth, California, also visited that same weekend. The No. 32 player in the 2022 class has also visited Auburn, Syracuse and LSU.
The following week, Nebraska brought in Jasen Green, the 6-foot-7 forward from Millard North, for his first official June 11-13. He also took unofficial visits to Colorado and Minnesota in June.
Ramel Lloyd Jr., a 6-foot-6 point guard from Woodland Hills, California, visited June 18-20. He originally planned to announce his commitment on June 27, but he pushed his decision back. The No. 98 prospect has also visited Oregon, Georgetown, Arkansas and Oklahoma.
Joseph Hunter Jr., a 6-foot-5 guard from Fresno, California, checked out Lincoln June 20-22. Ranked just five spots behind Lloyd, Hunter holds an offer from a handful of other high-major schools in addition to Nebraska.
The last top-150 prospect to visit officially was Avery Brown (No. 131), a 6-foot-3 point guard from Beacon Hills, Connecticut, who swung through Lincoln June 21-23. He also took an official visit to Colorado.
Nebraska closed out the month of official visits by hosting Braeden June 25-27. The 6-foot-8 forward from Nashville, Tennessee, also visited Wisconsin and Rutgers.
Nebraska wasn’t focused solely on the 2022 class, however. The Huskers also got a head start on 2023 recruiting by hosting a handful of high-profile unofficial visitors.
Simeon Wilcher, the eighth-ranked player in the class and the younger brother of current Husker C.J. Wilcher, took a look around campus while his brother, a transfer from Xavier, was moving in last month.
Omaha Biliew, the No. 6 player in the class, also took an unofficial to Nebraska, along with a few others.
Gus Yalden, a 6-foot-8 post from Appleton, Wisconsin, who attends IMG Academy in Florida, is spending the summer in Kearney where he has roots. Yalden lived in Kearney when he was in middle school and still has family there. Yalden has been recovering from an injury suffered during the high school season and has been working out with the Kearney High School basketball team led by former Husker Drake Beranek.
The final unofficial visitor was Parker Friedrichsen, a 6-foot-4 guard from Bixby, Oklahoma, who currently holds a handful of mid-major offers.
The visitor list included players ranked from 32nd all the way to 262nd in the 247Sports Composite, from combo forwards to point guards. The unofficial list featured a pair of 5-stars, a high 4-star and an unranked player.
During Hoiberg’s stop in Grand Island for the Big Red Blitz, he shared with the fans in attendance some basic details about how the Huskers go about recruiting.
“In our sport the travel teams are important,” Hoiberg said. “They get recognized, I think, easier on those travel teams. We have all these scouting services that we subscribe to to kind of help put names on the map. And then you go out and evaluate them and find out if they’re good enough or if they fit into your system well enough. And they’re pretty accurate; these people do a pretty good job when they do put stars on certain players, 3-, 4-, 5-star players. Then you see how that projects. I think 75% of 5-star kids do end up playing in the NBA. And then you build relationships.”
Relationships are a big key for assistant coach Matt Abdelmassih, the lead recruiter for most of Nebraska’s targets. The next step in strengthening those relationships is getting back on the road to see prospects play in person.
The first live period for grassroots basketball since the pandemic hit is next week, July 8-11. Two more live periods — where coaches can travel to observe tournaments in person — will follow, July 16-18 and 23-25.
“There are three shoe companies that have circuits that we’re about to get out to in July and see all of them,” Hoiberg said. “There’s a Nike circuit, there’s an Adidas circuit, there’s an Under Armour Circuit and they’re all playing in different locations in the four recruiting periods in July. We’ll have coaches at each one of those sessions evaluating and then also watching the players that are highest on your list.
“The first weekend, for example, we’ll have somebody in Atlantic City, we’ll have another coach in Birmingham and we’ll have another coach in Atlanta. And now you’re seeing those players that are on your radar. Some you’re evaluating — are they going to be good enough? But you’re only allowed to have four coaches be on the road at a time, so it makes it tough.”
Keita is a solid start to the 2022 class, but the coaches will look to carry over the momentum from a successful month of visits into three weeks of in-person evaluation and recruiting.
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.