Heading into a new season, the Nebraska men’s basketball team is focusing on making sure it plays with a sense of urgency.
The team has improved on a variety of things over the offseason, head coach Fred Hoiberg said Monday, including 3-point shooting and their pick-and-roll game. However, the top priority for the coach is making sure his players are putting in their best efforts, all the time.
“Our biggest thing that I’m really trying to stress to our guys is the urgency and the passion they have to play with on every possession if you’re going to win consistently in this league,” Hoiberg said.
The need for that urgency rises from the fact that the Huskers finished at the bottom of the conference each of the last two seasons. Effort alone may not be the only reason that was the case, but it’s something the team will need to have if it does want to make strides.
According to senior guard Kobe Webster, the main problem has been keeping the sense of urgency consistent.
“I think it’s been good, I think that’s something we also can work on being consistent with,” he said. “Some days it’s there, other days it’s kind of so-so, so I think if we lock in and start being more consistent with it, I think that’s something that’s definitely going to help us.”
Having six returning contributors from last season’s roster may help that. Last year, the team only had two such players see significant minutes.
Five of those players are juniors or seniors. Webster said that everyone on the team has to embrace their role, and having a good number of players that already did so last year is an advantage.
“We understand that if you’re not committed to it, the results aren’t going to be in our favor,” Webster said. “So I think the returners really established that and have shown the younger guys what it’s going to take.”
Junior forward Lat Mayen is another returner that has done his best to step up as a leader. He said that’s something he’s had to get better at over time, as being vocal wasn’t a strength of his growing up.
“It was kind of a thing that I had to do and I had no choice but to do,” he said. “So I just kind of stepped into that role and I try to be more vocal.”
The team is still welcoming nine newcomers, most notably 5-star guard Bryce McGowens. Hoiberg said that McGowens is “as talented a kid I’ve had an opportunity to coach,” but as with all freshmen, there is a learning curve.
“As talented as Bryce is, we have to have a level of patience,” Hoiberg said. “… I haven’t been around many that have the physical gifts that he has, now it’s about getting him to understand every possession that he has to play has got to be full-out effort.”
Webster called the freshman a “workhorse” who knows what it’ll take to get to the next level. Wilhelm Breidenbach is another top recruit the team has been impressed with thus far.
Regardless, keeping effort high is going to be a team-wide responsibility. Mayen said that nobody’s exempt from having bad moments, and the rest of the team has to be there for those players when that happens.
“We all have our moments where somebody’s mentally tough and somebody’s not,” he said. “So it’s up to everybody to get everybody going and pick the next dude up if he’s down mentally or physically.”