Fred Hoiberg took a break from his busy spring to join Greg Sharpe for a segment on Tuesday’s edition of Sports Nightly.
Hoiberg discussed each of the members of Nebraska’s 2023 recruiting class in addition to a handful of other topics including Keisei Tominaga, the team’s foreign tour and the game with Oregon State at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls next season.
With four transfers signed to fill the biggest holes on the roster, the biggest remaining question for the Huskers centers on Keisei Tominaga’s future. He’s currently going through the pre-draft process, though he did not receive an invitation to either the G League Elite Camp or the NBA Combine. The Combine wraps up this week and then NCAA prospects will have 10 days to continue seeking feedback before making their final decisions.
“I think the 31st is the is the pull-out deadline and he can work out all the way up until then with some NBA teams, and we’ve got a couple lined up for him right now and we’ll see how those go,” Hoiberg said. “We’ll see what kind of feedback he gets and then he’s going to have a big decision as we will all sit down at the end of the month with his family through Zoom, with Keisei and with a few other people that he’s got helping him through this process, and then figure out the best best route moving forward.”
Hoiberg told Sharpe he wouldn’t even recognize Tominaga after the work he’s put in this spring.
“We put a very intensive program together for him because he leaves for his national team in the middle of June,” Hoiberg said. “So we tried to put as much weight and strength on Keisei, and he looks great.”
Tominaga hasn’t been the only Husker working on his body and his game this spring. Once the season ended, the team began holding small group workouts.
“They’d go to the weight room for an hour with Kurt [Jospeh], which is the big focus right now is to get their bodies built back up after the long season … Then they’ll come out and they’ll do a skill workout on the floor,” Hoiberg said. “And then some will come back for some individual instruction in the afternoon, whether they want to get some shots, some form shooting, that type of thing.”
The spring workouts are step one in a busy offseason for the Huskers who will be taking the foreign trip allowed to programs every four years. For a team set to have at least five newcomers, this offseason is the perfect time for an overseas tour.
“We get to go to Spain, and with all the new faces it’s a great luxury to have, not so much the games per se, but you get 10 free practices with no time limit on those,” Hoiberg said. “You get four hours a week on the court, four hours in the weight room as part of your offseason training program. But when you take a foreign trip, you get 10 extra practices and you can go two-a-days, you can structure them however you want without any worry about going over your hours. I’ve already met with our sports scientist and our strength coach, Kurt Joseph, and our trainer, RJ [Pietig], and we’ve put together a plan.”
One thing Hoiberg plans to be cognizant of is making sure he doesn’t push the team too hard with the extra practice time. He’s looking at the big picture and wants to make sure the Huskers avoid burnout.
“The fact that we have a sports science division here run by Matt Thome who does a phenomenal job, I think that’s one of the reasons we had the best record in the Big Ten from February 1 on last year, because of the way we structured things,” Hoiberg said. “I thought our guys had a freshness to them that maybe some of the other teams that maybe just grind, grind, grind.”
The Spain trip will be particularly valuable for Ramel Lloyd Jr., who hasn’t played in an organized game since Nebraska’s exhibition at Colorado on Oct. 30, 2022. The highest-rated recruit in Nebraska’s 2022 recruiting class opted to redshirt this past season. He spent all season on the scout team, impersonating the opponent’s best wing player, and has been putting in work this spring to get ready. The games overseas will provide him with an opportunity to show how much he’s grown — especially with Nebraska potentially not having its full roster available.
“Now you’re able to get him in those practice settings and then also go over and get game experience,” Hoiberg said. “I’m still feeling out how I’m going to approach the games. I may play seven guys in the first half, seven in the second half. I still haven’t figured that out totally. We’ve had a couple guys with offseason surgeries that probably won’t be ready at that time, so we’ll see how that goes.”
While the extra practices and opportunities to play together are both valuable, Hoiberg’s favorite part of the trip doesn’t have anything to do with the basketball portion of the tour.
“The thing that I like more than anything, we’ll play three games in Spain — we’ll play one in Barcelona, we’ll play one in Madrid and we’ll play one in Valencia — but just the amount of time that these guys spend together on a trip like this,” Hoiberg said. “These kids today, they’re just sitting there with their phones and staring at those screens. Over there, without the WiFi, you go out to dinner and the guys, they sit there and they interact with each other, they have to talk. So being able to have a trip, that’s going to help with the chemistry, help with the culture and get to see some really really cool cities. It should be a really fun thing these guys will never forget.”
Finally, Hoiberg touched on a the most recent bit of scheduling news for the 2023-24 season. Five years after smacking Oklahoma State 79-56 under Tim Miles at the Sanford Pentagon, Nebraska will return to Sioux Falls to take on another orange OSU team, Oregon State.
“Nebraska played there a couple years ago and it was a great success and a ton of Husker fans were up there,” Hoiberg said. “So I’m looking forward to that. I scheduled a game at the Pentagon when I was at Iowa State and then I’d moved on to the Bulls before that game was played, but I know how much they loved going up there as well. It’s a really cool venue, kind of the old throwback Hoosiers-type court. But it’s going to be a fun game. Oregon State, to play a Pac-12 team at the Pentagon should be a really good experience for everybody.”
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.