Coach Fred Hoiberg shared some good news during the Nebraska Men’s Basketball Show on Wednesday’s edition of Sports Nightly.
Hoiberg announced that junior forward Derrick Walker’s NCAA-mandated suspension for a rules violation during his time at Tennessee has been reduced from 16 games to 14 games. Walker should be eligible for the Huskers starting with Nebraska’s game against Maryland on Jan. 16.
Hoiberg said the original suspension was based on the normal 31-game schedule, and Nebraska successfully appealed that it should be adjusted to reflect the maximum 27 games teams can play this season.
Hoiberg also said he’s hoping to get word in the next week about the return date for freshman center Eduardo Andre. Andre has been away from the team and in isolation because of a positive COVID-19 test.
Andre and Walker becoming available would add some much-needed depth with sophomore Yvan Ouedraogo currently as the only true post option.
“We’ll see how it plays out, but both those guys gave us really good moments,” Hoiberg said. “Derrick gives us an experienced, big front-line body that played in the SEC and was part of NCAA Tournament teams. Eduardo has just made unbelievable strides since he got here. He’s still new to the game, hasn’t been playing that long, but he’s got great instincts and you’ll see that. He has rim-protecting qualities in his game because of that length and speed and athleticism. We’ll see how it goes.Obviously there’s going to be a little time before we have to make those decisions. But I can see both those guys having an impact on our team.”
With Walker and Andre unavailable, Hoiberg decided to start a small-ball lineup featuring Lat Mayen at the five in the season-opener, and he’s stuck with that group in the three games since.
“It’s been pretty unique the way that everything has played out,” Hoiberg said. “When I look at Lat, he didn’t get a lot of reps in our preseason at the five because we had Yvan, we had Derrick and we had Eduardo out there taking a majority of the minutes there. When we got early word that we would be without two of those three centers, Yvan being the other one, we talked a lot about it as a staff and decided to start Lat at the five and just had a couple days where we really had him doing a lot of those reps.
“So we’re still getting used to him playing and thats why I’m excited about these three days of practice coming up is we’re going to put him more in that position that he’s playing most right now on the floor which is kind of that small-ball five position that he’s playing. He’s done a great job.”
>> Nebraska has done a great job of earning trips to the free-throw line (27.3 attempts per game), but the Huskers are currently shooting 67.9% once they get there. Teddy Allen is leading the Huskers with 7.5 attempts per game but is only shooting 60% after converting at an 88.1% clip last season at Western Nebraska Community College. Hoiberg’s not worried, though.
“It just gets a little bit mental,” Hoiberg said. “We shot them, actually, really well until the last minute [against South Dakota] where we missed I think five-of-six to finish that game. Before that, we actually were shooting a very good percentage. I’m confident as we continue on and guys continue to get used to being put in those situations in a real game, when they get real-game opportunity, that those percentages will increase. Our guys are too good of shooters for the percentages to stay where they are.”
>> Thorir Thorbjarnarson has started all four games for the Huskers, but he’s averaging just 2.8 points and is 3-of-14 (21.4%) from deep after leading the Husker at 37.2% last season. Despite his shooting struggles, Hoiberg has been pleased with the all-around play of the longest-tenured Husker.
“Thor’s doing everything except knocking down shots right now,” Hoiberg said. “He’s always a guy that you can rely on, he’s always in the right spot, you see he’s in a stance, he’s talking out there, executing our coverages, making simple plays. It’s just a matter of time. He’s too good of a shooter for his percentages to stay where they are. I had a good talk with him today and told him to keep his confidence and continue to look for his shot … Going back and watching and I worked with him a couple days before the game, he’s just falling out of his shot to the right a little bit, and that’s kind of the human nature when you’re struggling a little bit is to reach for that rim as opposed to finishing high on your shot … I’m not worried at all. Thor’s going to knock down his shots, he’s going to continue to make good, solid, simple plays and he’ll be a big factor for us this season.”
>> Nebraska’s other senior, Western Illinois grad transfer Kobe Webster, is adjusting to a new role off the bench after starting at point guard the last three seasons. He’s been an offensive spark plug off the bench, averaging 10.8 points in 20.8 minutes per game, but Hoiberg has been even more impressed by his leadership than his play.
“He hit two huge 3s for us in that run that we had in the second half [against South Dakota],” Hoiberg said. “Dalano got him a 3 and then they got a little bit mixed up in transition and he got a wide open one, both those in the left corner. The thing Kobe gives us is he’s an unbelievable leader. Teddy made a defensive mistake chasing a guy over an Iverson cut where he got layups on us twice and I look over in the huddle and Kobe’s just wearing him out. It was great. When you have players that can hold each other accountable and talk to them about the game plan and that type of thing, that goes a long way. He’s got the ultimate respect from hist teammates because of the type of person that he is, the type of work ethic that he has. He’s just always doing the right things … I just love everything Kobe’s all about. He’s really been a great addition for our team.”
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.