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Bandoumel, Gary Join Blackshirt Brotherhood

December 07, 2022

After practice on Monday, Nebraska Athletic Director Trev Alberts called Husker basketball starters Emmanuel Bandoumel and Juwan Gary into his office. The two had no idea what the meeting was for, and they responded to the call apprehensively.

“I was a little scared,” Bandoumel said. “Usually when you get called in to go see the AD, it’s not necessarily a good thing.”

This time it was for a good reason, however. Fresh off Nebraska’s upset at then-No. 7 Creighton in which the Huskers held the high-powered Bluejays to 53 points, Alberts had a gift for the two guys that set the defensive tone for Fred Hoiberg’s squad: their own blackshirts.

“It means a lot,” Bandoumel said. “I think Juwan and I are the first athletes ever outside of football to get a blackshirt, so it’s an honor … to be kind of having the AD showing love to us and appreciating what we do for the team and appreciating the fact that we are Huskers now. It means a lot, it means that we’re doing the right things, doing what we’re supposed to do and we’re getting the benefit for it. It’s still early, but to know that people really are looking at us and noticing that we put so much work into what we’re doing right now, it’s really great.”

Alberts didn’t tip Hoiberg off about the gesture; the head coach watched the video before Alberts tweeted it out.

“I didn’t get invited; I was never a guy that would have gotten a blackshirt,” Hoiberg quipped.

“We talked about that being our identity this year is going out every night — the ball is not always going to go through the hoop and you have to find a way in games like that,” Hoiberg said. “What did we make, three 3s the other night? … We still found a way to win. So to be able to grind it out, I think we outscored them by 30 in the paint and you have to have that. It is something that I’m really pleased with these guys.” 

“Emmanuel is bought in … what Emanuel did to [Ryan] Nembhard in keeping him out of the paint — that kid has been living in the paint the first part of the season, so for a guy like Emmanuel to buy into that role every night. I think he had four points or six points, two transition baskets, but to be able to take away their number one option and push their offense further up the floor — if Creighton’s comfortable, they’re impossible to stop and just with Emmanuel’s ability to be a ball hawk up there and take away and push the offense out is a huge luxury to have. So it all starts with him, and I thought it was pretty cool when Trev gave them those blackshirts.”

Bandoumel starts at the two-guard spot, but Nebraska tasks him with guarding the opposing team’s best perimeter player who often tends to be a point guard. He had a big hand in holding Nembhard to six points on 3-of-13 shooting, four assists and four turnovers on Sunday.

Bandoumel comes from a family that appreciates defense in every sport. His older brother was a defensive-minded basketball player as well that went on to have an extended professional career while his sisters played volleyball.

“For us we, take pride in protecting what’s ours,” Bandoumel said. “And for me, from Canada, I always had to prove myself, I always had to show up in games or show in AAU games, whenever I had to come and play in the United States against prospects and stuff like that. So for me, I take it as like I’ll take whoever is the best player for them and I’m a two-way, so I’ll make it really hard on the other end for them to score; that’s so demoralizing for any players and I take pride in doing that and I take pride in taking the head of the snake off any team.”

As for Gary, his teammates called him a dog all offseason and he’s lived up to that reputation through eight games. At 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds, Gary often guards bigger opposing forwards while also having the versatility to switch onto perimeter players if Nebraska needs him to. He’s also played some small-ball five at times this season. Hoiberg praised his toughness and his improvement on the defensive glass (his defensive rebounding percentage has improved from 11.8% last year at Alabama to 15.7% through eight games at Nebraska). 

As a team, Nebraska is up to 74th in adjusted defensive efficiency, which is in the top 20% nationally. They’re pretty average in defending shots from the field (168th in opposing 3-point percentage, 137th in opposing 2-point percentage) but they have one of the lowest foul rates in the country (third in opponent free-throw rate) and are above-average in forcing turnovers (87th).

Hoiberg and his staff made a conscious decision to focus on positional size and defensive prowess with some of their offseason additions and emphasized the defensive end of the floor throughout the summer and preseason. That emphasis appears to have paid off so far this season, and the two Huskers setting the tone on that end now have their own blackshirts courtesy of a man who knows a thing or two about getting it done on defense.

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