On Thursday, Nebraska took to the practice floor at the Hendricks Training Complex for the first time since the team’s 106-37 win over Mississippi Valley State on Tuesday.
It’s hard to take too much away from a 69-point blowout, but the game did provide Nebraska’s several newcomers to get plenty of time on the floor.
“It was just good to get guys reps and get guys in game form, feeling better,” Coach Tim Miles said. “We’ll need to be better again on Sunday and then much better again on Wednesday.”
Nebraska went 12 deep on Tuesday, getting sophomores Thomas Allen Jr., Nana Akenten and Thorir Thorbjarnarson significant playing time. True freshmen Brady Heiman and Amir Harris both made their debuts, playing 21 and 18 minutes, respectively, and combining for 15 points and 18 rebounds.
Heiman, who was around 200 pounds at 6-foot-11 when he graduated from high school, originally thought he was in store for a redshirt season, but as he added muscle (about 15 pounds’ worth) and adjusted to the speed of the college game during preseason practices, Heiman said he thought he’d have a chance to see the court as a true freshman. He was right.
“I think it’s really valuable,” Heiman said about early season games against lesser opponents. “I know the first time I got in my legs were shaking because it was something different.”
That being said, Heiman isn’t taking his success against the Delta Devils for granted. He knows the schedule promises much tougher challenges in the near future.
“I definitely think the competition will rise up and get better, but hopefully I can rise up and get better with it too,” Heiman said.
The Huskers should have another tune-up game of sorts on Sunday afternoon when Southeast Louisiana comes to town. The Lions lost their opener at No. 23 LSU 94-63. Miles said Thursday’s practice was all about getting the guys ready for whatever they might see in the near future.
“Today was really kind of a day where I think we prepped for what our idea would be of everything we’re going to see in the next two weeks,” Miles said. “We went against a little bit of different press stuff, we made sure that everybody knows what to do; so a lot of situational stuff, how we might have to double the post, reviewing all that; some screen-and-roll things that I think we might come across, so when would we rotate? The only way, for those young kids especially without the reps that some of the older guys have, is to do it, do it, do it, do it. Then you take a guy like Nana Akenten who might play the small forward or big forward, now he’s got two different responsibilities on that stuff so he needs even more reps. It was really a day of a lot of teaching and situational teaching.”
With just three organized games (a closed scrimmage, an exhibition game and the season opener) under his belt, Miles is still trying to iron out his rotations and figure out which lineups work. In particular, he’s trying to see where the freshmen and sophomores factor in.
“For some of those young guys it seems like sometimes yeah and then sometimes I’m still scratching my head,” Miles said. “I think we just have to be willing to put them out there. We’ve got a whole bunch of games coming up. You look at even that first week of December where its — I’m going to go backwards here — Illinois, Minnesota, Creighton, three games in seven days or eight days. And then we have the [ACC/Big Ten Challenge] and Western Illinois two days apart.
“So we’ve got this whole quick turnaround. Now last year’s team, which I don't know if this year’s team is quite like it, was great at one-day preps, did very well, and we had a whole bunch of them. I’m hoping that continues and I think it says a lot about our guys and their ability to tune in and play hard all the time.”
Tipoff for Sunday’s game at Pinnacle Bank Arena is set for 3 p.m. on ESPNU.