Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Hoiberg Dishes on 2023 Recruiting Class on Sports Nightly

May 18, 2023

The spring has become the busiest time of the year for college basketball coaches as they work to balance live recruiting periods, transfer portal happenings and workouts with their players, but Fred Hoiberg took a break from the chaos on Wednesday to sit down with Greg Sharpe for a segment on Sports Nightly.

Hoiberg touched on each of the additions he and his staff has made and shared how they helped address the team’s biggest needs with losing its top playmakers in Sam Griesel and Derrick Walker.

Hoiberg said the staff feels really good about its frontcourt situation with the addition of Bradley transfer Rienk Mast and New Mexico transfer Josiah Allick.

Hoiberg called Mast one of the best rebounders in the portal.

“Rienk is a very physical, tough defender, very versatile on the offensive end,” Hoiberg said. “He can give us a little bit of what Derrick gave us as far as playmaking, but one thing he does that Derrick really didn’t do very well is shoot. He shot almost 36% from the 3-point line and he’s 6-9, 240. So what that does, especially in our five-out spread offense, is that’s going to take the big away from the basket, get him away from the rim, and that should open up some driving lanes for our guards.”

Hoiberg compared Mast’s ability to spread the floor and make passes to Georges Niang, one of the top players Hoiberg coached at Iowa State who is currently with the Philadelphia 76ers.

As for Allick, the Lincoln North Star product, Hoiberg gave a shoutout to his sister Bekka, a middle blocker on the volleyball team, for her recruiting efforts in convincing her older brother to spend his final year of college back home in Lincoln. Hoiberg said he felt like the impact Sam Griesel had on the program in his lone season as a Husker played a role in Allick choosing Nebraska over San Diego State and Southern Illinois as well.

Hoiberg praised Allick’s skill level and said both Mast and Allick can play either frontcourt spot.

“Josiah when he was at UMKC, where he started his career after his career at North Star, he shot 35% and 36% the two years that he was there,” Hoiberg said. “His percentages dipped last year and in watching film and evaluating his shot, we just need to get his rhythm and fluidity back and I think a big part is also confidence. But he certainly has the ability and capabilities of knocking down shots at a high level, and his athleticism.” 

Hoiberg said fans are going to love how hard Mast and Allick both play, and he believes adding those two to a healthy Juwan Gary will give the Huskers a lot of toughness and rebounding ability in the frontcourt.

On the wing, the Huskers added Charlotte transfer Brice Williams.

“You look at a guy like Brice Williams, another player at 6-7 that averaged about 14 points, seven rebounds at Charlotte, and finished off the year playing his best basketball,” Hoiberg said. “He shot over 40% from the 3-point line the last couple of years as well. So you’ve got great length, another guy that can rebound, very good defender that shoots the ball at a very high level. 

“In talking to a lot of different NBA scouts and some of my close friends from my former life in the NBA, they all have talked about those additions specifically, and with Brice, they just say we feel like you got a hidden gem with that kid. To be able to get a player of that caliber, first-team all-league, a guy that was the MVP in the CBI, he’s a guy, again, that has great versatility.”

The final transfer portal addition was former Iowa point guard Ahron Ulis, though Hoiberg slipped up and called him “Tyler.” The elder Ulis brother played at Kentucky and in the NBA with the Phoenix Suns, but Ahron is his own player.

“He’s got Big Ten experience where he started on an NCAA team the last couple seasons,” Hoiberg said. “He knows the league, can really handle pressure. His 3-point percentage is in the low 30s, but I think he’s got a release to where we can get that percentage up. But a really good playmaker. Again with the spread offense, a little bit different system than he was playing in with the motion that Iowa had, but was part of a very high-octane offense at the University of Iowa. We feel really good about getting a guy that has the type of experience and the leadership ability that he has.”

Hoiberg also made sure to mention the staff is “really, really excited” about the lone high school recruit in the 2023 class in Eli Rice, who signed in December and spent a post-grad year at IMG Academy.

One thing Hoiberg likes about this class is that outside of Allick, each of the additions has multiple years of eligibility remaining.

The Huskers still have two open scholarships, and Hoiberg said his staff is always looking. They’ll keep an eye on any late additions to the portal from the grad transfer ranks or players who have declared for the draft while entering the portal who choose to withdraw and return to college. Last week, the Huskers hosted a 2023 recruit in Finnish forward Eemeli Yalaho who is currently attending Western Reserve Academy in Ohio, but a dead period just began so further visits will have to wait.

“We’ll see how it works out,” Hoiberg said. “I feel very good about our group right now if we don’t have any additions. If you can have someone that you think might be a difference-maker, we will certainly look to go that route as well.”

Stay tuned for more from Hoiberg’s time in front of the microphone.

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