Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Huskers Gearing Up for Exhibition Against Chadron State

October 20, 2022

Fred Hoiberg said on Thursday morning that the Huskers will be at nearly full strength heading into Sunday’s exhibition game against Chadron State.

Only redshirt freshman Quaran McPherson, who will miss the season with a knee injury, will be unavailable against the Eagles.

“We’ve had a very competitive, I guess, training camp portion of our season,” Hoiberg said. “I love the mentality every day that these guys are showing and just the togetherness that this group has shown. I know I’ve talked a lot about this, but they’re spending a ton of time together off the court. Chemistry, I think with this group, has has been off the charts and hopefully that will help as we go into the season. We’re excited about getting out there and playing against other guys. You just kind of get sick after a while, everybody knows the offense that you’re running and is starting to cheat the plays and that type of thing.” 

Hoiberg announced the starting five — Sam Griesel at the one, Emmanuel Bandoumel at the two, C.J. Wilcher at the three, Wilhelm Breidenbach at the four and Derrick Walker at the five — but the overall rotation is still a work in progress.

“Right now, obviously, this portion of the season, we’re worried about ourselves,” Hoiberg said. “We’re going to have two more hard practices leading into the afternoon game on on Sunday. We’ll try to get everybody out there as much as possible. I’m still trying to figure out a rotation, exactly what that looks like.” 

Hoiberg said the practices have been physical and the players have put in the work without complaining. They’ve done a good job of finding the hot hand and sharing the ball on offense, which will likely be music to the fans’ ears after a season in which the ball tended to stick more often than not.

Defensively, C.J. Wilcher said the players have really taken ownership; it’s no longer just something the coaches are harping on.

“Coach has been on us about our standards defensively and things like that,” Wilcher said. “So we’re starting to hold each other accountable, hold ourselves accountable, and Coach has been holding us accountable the whole year … I think we’re all starting to accept that the defense is our defense in terms of like, ‘All right, the coaches enforce it, but we have to enforce it as well in between ourselves’ and stuff like that.”

Wilcher said the team made some mistakes with rotations on defense and fighting through fatigue in the team’s scrimmage on Tuesday, but Hoiberg said they bounced back and brought. A lot of energy to Thursday’s practice after taking Wednesday off.

Fans will get their first look at this year’s team against Division II Chadron State, coached by Shane Paben. Chadron lost four of its top six scorers from a team that went 10-17 last season but added a number of transfers.

“I talked to Shane a couple days ago at Chadron and he really likes his team,” Hoiberg said. “It’s a completely new team. They’ve got a lot of talented players on this roster. It’ll be good test for us.”

Senior point guard Marcus Jefferson is the team’s top returner after averaging 12.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists and shooting 39.4% from 3 last season. Chadron State has two in-state players on its roster in junior guard Connor McCracken, a Scottsbluff grad who spent two season at Western Nebraska Community College, and sophomore guard Gage Delimont, from Ainsworth. 

Chadron State continues a streak of games against other in-sate schools as the Huskers have also played NAIA Doane and Peru State during Hoiberg’s tenure.

“I just really want to help out and take care of schools in the state,” Hoiberg said. “Actually, Larry Riley, who’s a longtime NBA executive, a good friend of mine, went to Chadron, and he still does a lot of things to try to help out and talked to me and asked if we’d do this. I think it’s a great opportunity. Again, I think it’s going to be a good team that we play on Sunday with a lot of athleticism and they’re going to test us off the bounce. So I’m excited about it, happy for it, happy we can help in this situation, and hopefully we get a lot out of it.”

McPherson suffered his season-ending injury during the summer while he was training back home, but Wilcher said he’s recovering well.

“He’s good,” said Wilcher, who was close with McPherson before he even arrived in Lincoln. “His process has been going a lot faster than expected, honestly. He’s back walking and it’s like four or five weeks out of surgery. So I’m happy for him. He’s taking it head on and I’m just happy for him. He’s in good spirits.”

McPherson figured to compete for back-up point guard minutes after redshirting during his first season in Lincoln, but now that job falls to others. Hoiberg said Bandoumel will handle some point guard minutes in addition to starting at the two while true freshmen Ramel Lloyd Jr. and Cale Jacobsen, a walk-on, are working at that spot as well.

“I think they’ve stepped up tremendously,” Wilcher said. “Emmanuel, he’s super solid, especially as the secondary ball handler. He makes good decisions with the ball, he’s not selfish. So I think those two things are just good qualities to have, especially as a backup point guard … [Lloyd and Jacobsen] are both solid as well. I think they are now coming into their own and are a lot more comfortable being in this environment and playing against us every day. Of course, it’s different during game time, just a lot of fans, things like that. But I feel like they’ve definitely held their own.”

Chadron State will be the first of two exhibitions for Nebraska as they gear up for what Hoiberg said will be a very demanding schedule featuring 28 games against other high-major teams. Nebraska will head to Colorado on Oct. 30 for a charity exhibition in the return trip after the two teams faced off in Lincoln last season.

“Again looking forward to getting out in front of our fans,” Hoiberg said. “Completely different look, completely different feel. I’m sure a lot of the guys will have butterflies getting out there for the first time in a game setting. But we’ll learn a lot about ourselves. Whatever happens on Sunday, it’ll be a great opportunity to learn and hopefully grow from it.”

Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. CT on Sunday and the game will be available on Big Ten Plus.

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