Fred Hoiberg joined Sports Nightly on Tuesday for an early summer check-in to talk Huskers heading to the pros, newcomers and returners alike.
With summer school starting up at Nebraska, the Huskers have begun to make their way to campus. That includes newcomers Sam Griesel and Juwan Gary, who the Huskers landed from the transfer portal. They’re currently going through the return-to-campus medial testing.
However, the other transfer, Emmanuel Bandoumel, has a different process to work through before joining the program.
“Emmanuel got in a little bit later because of just some of the things that he has to do as far as getting into a graduate program as an international student,” Hoiberg said. “He’s from Canada. So there’s a few things that he still needs to do before he comes to campus.
“But we do have Juwan and Sam. Sam has been here pretty much all summer, doing some different things with some rehab stuff. It’s great to see Juwan; I think people are going to fall in love with him very quickly, just with the way he plays.”
Hoiberg brought in two new freshmen in his 2022 recruiting class in Ramel Lloyd Jr. and Jamarques Lawrence and he feels they have a chance to be ahead of typical freshmen because they both competed at a high level of high school basketball.
“When you look at what Ramel Lloyd and the type of talent that he played against at Sierra Canyon, night in a night out they’re playing against the other top schools in the country,” Hoiberg said. “So he’s going to be a little bit ahead of the game as far as a freshman. I would say the same thing about Jamarques playing at Roselle Catholic, another school that plays against really good talent and to win that state championship and to have really close, tight games where he played a major role in helping them win that, again, that’ll put him a little bit ahead of the curve.”
As for the returning Huskers, Hoiberg said second-year forward Wilhelm Breidenbach is ahead of schedule in his rehab from the knee surgery that ended his freshman season just 10 games in.
“He did jump testing last week, and they are exactly where they were before the injury,” Hoiberg said. “So he’s in a really good place. We’re still going to take it very slow and cautious. But Wilhelm is in a great place, both physically and mentally. And one thing that this has really allowed Wilhelm to do was work on his overall body — upper body strength, lower body strength, getting those legs equal. That’s the that’s the next hurdle that he needs to overcome, he’s still got a little bit of imbalance which is natural at this time, especially at this stage of the rehab. But he’s in a really good place to hopefully be cleared for full activity once we start up in the fall.”
Hoiberg confirmed that Breidenbach will have the option to take a medical redshirt for the 2021-22 season.
C.J. Wilcher is the team’s leading returning perimeter scorer after averaging 8.1 points and shooting 40.6% from 3 during his first season as a Husker. The 6-foot-5 guard was listed at 221 pounds last season, but Hoiberg said getting in better shape was a major focus for Wilcher this offseason.
“You’re going to be amazed at what C.J.’s body looks like already,” Hoiberg said. “He’s dropped a lot of weight and he’s really bought into the diet aspect. Just watching him with where he is right now and where his body is going to open up a lot of things for him on both ends of the floor. He’s going to be quicker, more explosive, get his shot off quicker … He was working out with some really high level players and played against a lot of pros, and that really helps. It helps with your confidence to go up and play against those guys and to see the work ethic and what it takes to be a professional.
“So C.J.’s really bought in to everything that we talked to him about as far as what he needed to do to take his game to the next level. So getting C.J. back where he is, he’s going to have to be in a leadership-type position, which I know he’s ready for. I’m excited to see where we go with C.J. this season.”
Hoiberg also provided an update on the three players who had eligibility remaining but chose to pursue professional opportunities instead — Lat Mayen and Trey and Bryce McGowens.
Mayen decided to return to his native Australia and has already signed a professional contract.
“I’m happy for Lat; he’s in a really good situation in Australia,” Hoiberg said. “There’s an agent over there that deals with probably half the league that we’ve known for a long time. He’s with a very reputable agency, and Lat’s going to have a long playing career over there. It helps, obviously, Lat being from Australia and having that passport opens up a lot of doors for him. So I’m excited about Lat. He’s in a really good situation where I think he’ll play a lot of minutes. The development stage of their season is going on right now and then he’ll go on with the big team once they start the regular season.”
Bryce McGowens was the first of the Huskers to make his decision to go pro, and most expected him to spend just one season in Lincoln when he committed to Nebraska anyway. He’s currently being placed in the late first round or early second round in various NBA mock drafts.
“Exciting time for Bryce,” Hoiberg said. “He’s pretty much got interest from every team in the league, they all want to get him in for individual workouts. I’m in direct communication with his agent every couple of days just to try to make sure that the teams that he’s going to make sense just based on where they’re picking and also based on what their roster looks like. So it’s an exciting time, it’s a busy time for Bryce, but I know he’s looking forward to the end of the month when hopefully he hears his name called in the first round.”
Trey McGowens went right up near the deadline before ultimately deciding to remain in the draft. He isn’t projected to get drafted, but after four years of college he decided he was ready to move on.
“He had, I think, four workouts for NBA teams as well as a pro day that they do in conjunction with the NBA combine at Chicago,” Hoiberg said. “Trey did very well in that and just decided that this was the decision after talking to his family and talking to the important people in his circle that helped him with this, that this was the decision, he wanted to start with his pro career. He may have to take a different route, but I think he will get on a summer league [team], I think he will make it to an NBA training camp and then anything can happen from there.”
Check back for Wednesday’s Padding the Stats column for more from Hoiberg’s time on the radio.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. 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.