Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Hoiberg, Griesel React to Bryce McGowens Heading to Charlotte

June 27, 2022

After a one-and-done season in Lincoln, Bryce McGowens achieved a dream last weekend when he heard his name called in the NBA Draft.

McGowens slid a bit down the board, but the Charlotte Hornets traded up for the 40th pick to select him.

Fred Hoiberg was tuned in for the draft and said it always brings back great memories for him. The Indiana Pacers drafted Hoiberg with the 52nd overall pick and he went on to play for a decade with the Pacers, Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves.

“As I told Bryce, I called him the day before and I said, ‘Listen, there are so many things that can happen on draft night that are out of your control, and the important thing is in a couple of weeks, when you put that uniform on and you’re out in Las Vegas, you’re going to be a professional basketball player and you’re going to be playing pro basketball,” Hoiberg told assembled media on Monday. “Pretty much the teams that we thought had a lot of interest the first round, then you see trades happen, then you see teams package their picks and move up and take a different guy. 

“The important thing for Bryce is I know he’s going to a place where they really, genuinely like him, and they wouldn’t have traded up to get him if that wasn’t the case. For Bryce, the opportunity to go into an organization where he is valued, where he is liked; he could have gone to a team that had eight picks in the second round and who knows what would have happened? So to be in this position, I think it’s very important to understand it’s not about where you go, it’s a matter of who you go to and how much they value you.”

Charlotte general manager Mitch Kupchak alluded to McGowens starting on a two-way contract rather than a standard, fully guaranteed NBA deal because of a current roster crunch for the Hornets, but as Hoiberg said, Charlotte trading up for McGowens shows some level of long-term interest in him and he could earn his way into a full deal down the road. 

Hoiberg said he’s a fan of the fit for McGowens in Charlotte with new head coach Steve Clifford, who the Hornets recently announced is returning for a second stint leading the team.

“I think it’s good,” Hoiberg said. “I played against Steve Clifford’s team. I’m a big fan of Steve. He’s one of the coaches that I’ve stayed in touch with since I’ve been out of the pro game. He’s a guy that puts the ball in multiple players’ hands and I think that’s going to be a key for Bryce. These are a huge couple of weeks for him heading into the summer league to really put out a good first impression. Steve, I know he’ll be very active. That’s just how he’s wired, it’s how he operates in their practices. The chance for him to go really put a good first impression out there, it’s going to be there for him. But I think the world of Steve and how he plays. Certainly they wouldn’t have brought him back, obviously, if they didn’t think he did a great job. So I’m excited for Bryce and hopefully he’s there for a long time.”

The Huskers gathered as a team to watch the draft, and although newcomer Sam Griesel didn’t get a chance to play alongside McGowens, he enjoyed the experience of seeing a Husker get drafted for the third time in the past four years.

“It’s inspiring, to be honest, just seeing someone that went through what — I’m going to be here for a year, he was here for a year,” Griesel said. “So for me personally, just inspiring. I know obviously, this program has what it takes to get people there, and for me personally, that’s definitely a goal of mine. So it was really cool to just sit down with the team and see that whole thing happen and just see the support that everyone that played with him last year gave.”

The NBA Summer League in Las Vegas runs July 7-17, and McGowens will get a chance to compete with fellow Charlotte draft picks and other NBA hopefuls. Trey McGowens went undrafted but signed a summer league deal with the Los Angeles Clippers.

“Trey having the opportunity to go to the Clippers and playing for a former husker in Ty Lue, so that’s a great opportunity for him as well,” Hoiberg said. “So there are a lot of different routes to get to ultimately where you want to be, and I’m excited for the opportunity ahead.”

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