Hoiberg's Huskers Ready to Get Started as Basketball Practice Begins
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

‘Energy Through the Roof’ As Huskers Begin Preseason Practice

September 27, 2022

The first of 30 practices in 42 days is in the books for Fred Hoiberg and his team as the Cornhuskers gear up for the start of the 2022-23 season on Nov. 7.

The Huskers have been conducting workouts focused primarily on individual skill work since June, but now the team work can truly begin as the time limit increases from four hours per week to 20.

“We’ve been going at it since June and have gotten a really good feel for this group of guys,” Hoiberg said on Tuesday. “But with our first official day now in the books, I talked how important it is to our six guys that I’ve determined are the leaders of this team, formed a leadership group with them and talked about the importance of them coming in and really setting the tone for our team on this first day, and that’s exactly what they did. I’m just really excited about this group.”

SMU transfer Emmanuel Bandoumel said the energy was “through the roof” for the first practice. The excitement level was particularly high for redshirt freshman Wilhelm Breidenbach, who saw his first season in the program cut short after just 10 games by a knee injury.

“It’s definitely been a long time coming,” Breidenbach said. “We’ve been working hard, so it’s definitely exciting.”

Breidenbach said he’s been full-go for a while and has spent the last couple of months working off the rust. This week also marks the first official practices for North Dakota State transfer Sam Griesel, who had to sit out the early summer workouts while recovering from hip surgery.

Hoiberg said he’s been on a load restriction but has made it through most of their workouts without hitting his limit, including the first practice. They plan to ramp up his activity as the preseason continues, but he is cleared for full contact already.

“He’s pretty good,” Breidenbach said about Griesel. “Anybody who has seen him play could could say that. He’s a really good player, a really good point guard and a good leader. So he’s definitely great to play with … His decision-making, he doesn’t get sped up very easily, he’s a good leader. He’s a lead-by-example type of guy. He always plays hard, is always doing the right things, in the right spots.”

Bandoumel said he’s enjoyed sharing the floor with Griesel now that he’s healthy.

“I was excited to play with him, but now to be with him on the court it’s kind of funny sometimes because we play with each other really well,” Bandoumel said. “He understands his position on the court. He’ll never be in the wrong position. He’s always in the right position, right time, making the right passes and stuff. So I think it’s really easy to play with him out there, especially him being a big guard, a big point guard; that’s something we can take advantage of.”

Bandoumel said he likes to guard players full court but hasn’t been able to speed Griesel up at all to this point. 

“He always moves at his own pace,” Bandoumel said. “He uses his body pretty well; he’s 6-7, probably 215, 220, so he can bump me off and then really take his time to take the ball up the court. I think he does that pretty well and he’s got that little instinct of ‘I’m not getting sped, I know where I’m going, using my speed, using my body.’”

Unfortunately, one player who wasn’t on the court as the team began practices was redshirt freshman guard Quaran McPherson, who underwent surgery last week to repair a knee injury he suffered during the offseason.

“It’s going to be a long road for him with the procedure that he had on his knee, but he’s going to be fine and we’re looking forward to him getting back fully healthy,” Hoiberg said.

Hoiberg has a new staff with him as practice begins as well with Adam Howard and Ernie Zeigler both on board and able to work directly with players without a real time crunch for the first time.

“Coach Howard always brings energy,” Breidenbach said. “He’s kind of always in the gym hyping guys up, showing people love. And then Coach Zeigler, he talks a lot on the side. If he sees something, he’ll say something, so he’s very very insightful.”

Hoiberg said things have gone smoothly with Howard and Zeigler joining him and eNate Loenser, the only holdover from last year’s staff.

“It’s been great,” Hoiberg said. “I’ve been really pleased with everything. We’ve been on the road a lot. Sept. 9 is when we start our fall recruiting period. It’s a tough time because you have your guys, you have the access to them, and then we can also obviously get out on the road and recruit, so we’ve been all over the country looking for the right fit. We’ve two guys that left right after practice today to hit the road. But I’ve been really pleased with with our staff.”

Nebraska fans will get their first look at the new-look squad at Friday’s Opening Night with Husker Hoops, the joint event between the men’s and women’s basketball teams at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Hoiberg said he’s changing the format of the event from a team scrimmage to more of an open practice because he wasn’t thrilled with what the event turned into last season. Bandoumel said he’s looking forward to playing in front of Nebraska fans for the first time.

“I’m kind of excited to be on the court with my teammates in front of Husker fans,” Bandoumel said. “I’ve actually never set foot in PBA here so it’s going to be really exciting to be in front of all those fans. … It’s just a milestone that we’re getting closer to the season, that we’re getting closer to our goals and we’re about to do something great this year, so I’m just really excited.”

Opening Night is set to begin at 7 p.m. and will conclude with a performance from rapper Waka Flocka Flame.

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