Earlier this week marked the one-year anniversary of Fred Hoiberg becoming Nebraska’s head coach. He joined Sports Nightly on Thursday and host Greg Sharpe asked him to reflect back on the past year.
“I do think it was a good year for us as far as trying to lay the foundation and put in a style of play that we feel we can have long-term success with,” Hoiberg said. “It was a difficult year, obviously. Nobody expected going into this season winning only seven basketball games, two in league, but it was an important year again for laying the foundation. There were some very difficult decisions that we had to make as a staff as far as trying to get the right things, things that we will tolerate, things we won’t as far as how we’re going to operate with our program moving forward.”
Hoiberg tried to establish a standard both on and off the court in his first year at Nebraska. He showed he wasn’t afraid to discipline even his best players if they broke the rules, even for minor offenses.
On the court, Hoiberg said the Huskers were 16th nationally in pace and third in possession length. In the end, the Huskers didn't have the talent to win games that way, but Hoiberg was looking long term. He wasn’t willing to slow games down and ugly up play by any means necessary just to to scrap out another couple of wins.
Hoiberg didn’t dwell on the struggles, though. He quickly steered the conversation to reasons for optimism moving forward.
“There are some things that I see that give me a lot of hope for next season, and a lot of that was with the three sit-out transfers that we have with Dalano Banton, with Derrick Walker and with Shamiel Stevenson,” Hoiberg said. “I saw a lot of really good play out of those guys and they were building chemistry with each other when they were on the court with the team, trying to get our guys that were eligible as good of reps as they could to go against some pretty high-level talent.”
Hoiberg also mentioned recruiting.
“I’m very excited about what could potentially happen here in a couple weeks with the signings that we potentially could add to this team that I think will give us more size, more physicality, and a group of guys that are going to come in here and compete for very valuable playing time,” Hoiberg said.
First of all, the significance of the “couple of weeks” is that, barring changes to the calendar, the late signing period for basketball players begins on April 15. Nebraska already has a pair of guards set to join the team in Western Illinois grad transfer Kobe Webster and Wisconsin transfer Kobe King. The Huskers are still looking at every path to add talent to the roster and have two scholarships to play with (pending further attrition) after Cam Mack announced on Thursday that he was entering the NCAA Transfer Portal.
As things currently stand, Nebraska’s roster breaks down like this: guards Kobe Webster (senior) and Kobe King (junior); wings/forwards Thorir Thorbjarnarson (senior), Teddy Allen (junior), Dalano Banton (junior), Shamiel Stevenson (junior), Lat Mayen (junior) and Akol Arop (sophomore); and bigs Derrick Walker (junior), Yvan Ouedraogo (sophomore) and Kevin Cross Jr. (sophomore).
Hoiberg mentioned adding size and physicality. Adama Sanogo, a 2021 center from The Patrick School who has the option the reclassify to 2020, would certainly bring that. Listed at 6-foot-9 and 250 pounds, Sanogo is a 4-star prospect and top-50 player in 247Sports’ Composite. He cut his list down to 10 this week: Nebraska, Auburn, Illinois, Louisville, Maryland, Memphis, Oklahoma State, Pittsburgh, Seton Hall and UConn. If the Huskers can find a way to secure a commitment from him — no small feat — it would mark Hoiberg’s first true high-profile recruiting win in Lincoln as far as high school prospects go.
Nebraska was also one of the first schools to reach out to Stony Brook big man Jeff Otchere after he made it clear his intention was to graduate and transfer earlier this week. Otchere is a 6-foot-11, 240-pound center who averaged 2.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 17.2 minutes per game last season.
In the backcourt, Nebraska is still in the mix with Pittsburg transfer Trey McGowens. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound combo-guard cut his list down to Nebraska, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn and Ole Miss. He’s an athletic guard that scored just over 11 points per game in his first two seasons, but he’s struggled with efficiency, shooting 41.7% as a freshman and 36.7% as a sophomore. He’s a career 31.7% 3-point shooter and balanced his 3.6 assists average with 2.8 turnovers per game this season. He started 64 of his 66 games as a Panther.
Nebraska has also been in contact with Ohio State point guard transfer DJ Carton and Rice transfer wing Trey Murphy III.
Expect the Huskers to continue looking for ways to add talent to the roster until all their scholarships are filled — and maybe even after that. As assistant coach and lead recruiter Matt Abdelmassih detailed during the season, recruiting is a 365-day process for him.
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.