Rienk Mast’s basketball journey has brought him long way, from Groningen, Netherlands, to Peoria, Illinois, and now to Lincoln, Nebraska.
The 6-foot-9, 240-pound transfer from Bradley has only been with the Huskers for about a month, but he’s already settling in in his new home.
“Lincoln has been pretty cool so far,” Mast told assembled media recently. “It’s just a new adventure. I was in the same place for four years and loved it there, but at some point you want to try and explore something new. I’ve always liked to go and see new places, so Lincoln, I’ve been really liking it so far.
“And then the guys have been awesome. A lot of funny dudes on a team, but they know how to get their work done and be serious when you need to be serious. It’s been very easy to start bonding with each other. Obviously it’s still early in that process, but should be a fun year.”
On the court, Mast said he’s been focused primarily on adjusting to the new concepts present in Nebraska’s systems on both ends of the floor. After four years at Bradley (including a redshirt year) he’s starting over.
“You’ve been around basketball, but every time you’re with a new team you kind of have to adjust, especially the defense has been a lot different, but I feel like I’m adjusting pretty well,” Mast said. “And then offensively, that was one of the main things I really liked about the system here, that it was similar to what I’m used to and it puts me into my strengths. So for that, it’s been pretty easy to adjust for me. But right now in practice I’ve been really focusing on trying to talk out the actions that I’m doing so that the rest of the guys kind of know what I’m doing and that we can get more familiar with each other from that.”
Mast was speaking up so much on the court the day before that his voice was a little hoarse as he held his media availability. For now, he’s focusing mainly on his on-court communication more than vocal leadership as he settles into his new role on a veteran-laden team with seven other upperclassmen.
“It’s a tough combination for sure because you you come in and I’m not somebody that if I don’t know what’s going on, I want to use my voice,” Mast said. “I want to be quiet and then listen and take in a lot of information. But I feel like once I kind of understand what’s going on, then I’m trying to use my voice as much as possible and try to be a vocal leader. That just takes a little bit of time. But luckily, I’ve been able to pick up on a lot of concepts pretty quickly, so I’ve already tried to use my voice a lot.”
Mast described Nebraska’s defensive scheme as structural and “very team-oriented,” relying on rotations and players being in the right spot at the right time, which he said is a strength of his. Offensively, he’s watched a lot of Derrick Walker tape to prepare himself for a similar rle, especially as a passer.
“I’ve watched a lot of film on him and kind of where he got most of his passes from and assists from and I’m definitely going to try and do very similar things to him in that offense because he was very, very effective with it,” Mast said. “So yeah, he showed me a lot on on how to be a good passer in this system and I think I’m capable of making the same type of passes.”
Another element of Mast’s game that fits well into Nebraska’s system is his ability to shoot the ball from distance, and Mast said he’s enjoyed working with Fred Hoiberg to refine his shooting mechanics.
“It’s been very good,” Mast said. “Kind of what I’ve liked about him is that he’s very been keen on details. Like just shooting motion, sticking your shot, the footwork into it. I’m pretty big on the footwork aspect of things and he’s been really helpful with teaching me a couple of things in that. At this point, you’re looking for the small, minor things that can help you get just a little bit better and he’s been very good at pointing out small things and I’ve really liked his attention to detail so far.”
Mast spent the last four years in the Missouri Valley playing for the Braves. Now he’ll get a chance to play in the Big Ten night in and night out, an opportunity he called “awesome.”
“Growing up and even the last four years, that’s the type of games that I loved watching on TV, and I get to play against those teams now,” Mast said. “That’s going to be really cool.”
While the leap from the Valley to the Big Ten is a significant one, Mast got a preview of playing against high-major competition with Bradley last season. Mast put up 17 points and six rebounds against Arkansas in mid-December, then he put-up a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds against Wisconsin in the NIT.
“Arkansas was a tough game,” Mast said. “They were very athletic, so I had to really rely on my smartness and just being in the right spot at the right time, but it definitely taught me that I can play against that level of competition. Then Wisconsin, they play very slow, methodical, but it showed me in that game that I’m able to play against a Big Ten opponent and do well.”
Mast will continue working out with the Huskers this summer, but before he officially suits up in the scarlet and cream he’ll return home to don the colors of his native Netherlands. He’ll depart in late July to compete with the Netherlands Senior National Team during camp and pre-Olympic Qualifying competition.
“It’s awesome every time you get to represent your country,” Mast said. “It’s an honor every time. So I’m very happy that I got invited and I get the chance to play in orange.”