Shortly before Fred Hoiberg arrived on the third floor of Memorial Stadium for his introductory press conference on Tuesday, junior forward Isaiah Roby and senior guard Johnny Trueblood stepped out of the elevator and took their place in the crowd to wait for Nebraska’s new head coach.
Roby had just met Hoiberg shortly before the press conference, though the two had spoken on the phone a few times.
“He’s kind of given his vision for me and kind of just talked to me about what my plans are or next year,” Roby said. “I think we’ve had pretty good talks about it. Right now, I put my name in the [NBA] draft but I’m not declaring one way or the other right now. We’re going to have more talks in the future.”
Hoiberg held a short meeting with the team, including Roby, to introduce himself and lay out his plan for the team in the coming weeks. The theme of that message?
“Be ready to get to work,” Roby said. “He said he’s going out to watch the Final Four — obviously, his son’s team is playing in it — but he said when it’s over with, we’re going to get in the gym and we’re going to start working out. He was excited to get in the gym and build relationships with the rest of the guys on the team. He said relationships aren’t built in just the meeting we had, or in a couple days; it’s going to be over time, so he’s excited to start that opportunity.”
Last season, former coach Tim Miles submitted Roby’s name to the NBA Draft Underclassman Advisory Board to get some feedback, though he did not work out for any teams. This year, Roby intends to go through the full process.
“I’m going to attack it as aggressively as I can because that’s obviously my dream, to play in the NBA,” Roby said. “[Hoiberg] has encouraged me in that.”
Roby had an up-and-down season, but his rare physical tools and versatile skill set could make him attractive to decisions-makers at the next level. What kind of response would lead to Roby staying in the draft?
“I think that if I get out in front of these teams and perform the way I know I can, I think I can get drafted this year,” Roby said. “If I know I’m going to get drafted, that’s something that he’s even encouraged me — he said, when we talked on the phone, ‘If you get an opportunity, I’m not going to hold you back. I want what’s best for you.’ That would definitely make it hard [to come back.]”
Regardless of what he ultimately decides, Roby said he is excited by the hire of Hoiberg and sees him as an asset as he begins this process.
“Having a coach who has a proven track record in college is obviously huge,” Roby said. “I know that’s a big thing for incoming recruits as well. That’s definitely a big impact, but at this point, obviously my dream is to play in the NBA and he’s a guy who can help me out, whether that’s coming back and playing under him or leaving this year. He’s said that any way that he can help he’s willing to do for me so that’s been really good too.”
As for Trueblood, he was not present for the meeting. Though he could get a year of eligibility back if he so desired, Trueblood is ready to graduate and move on to the next stage of his life — preferably, coaching. Perhaps that career could even start at Nebraska.
“I have not talked to [Hoiberg] yet but it’s definitely something I’d be interested in,” Trueblood said. “I texted him last night — I reached out to our associate athletic director Marc Boehm and asked for Hoiberg’s number and he gave it to me. I texted him and just asked if there was a time I could talk to him. I know he’s busy with his son’s Final Four and everything. When he gets a chance, I’d love to sit down and talk with him.”
The senior walk-on sees an opportunity to be around in Year 1 for a coach would be valuable to him moving forward.
“I think it’s always just kind of interesting that I would get to see a first-year guy come into a new program and implement his style of play,” Trueblood said. “His player development really speaks for itself, like the 3-point shooting stuff — he talked about one of his players didn’t even shoot 3s at his JUCO and then he came in and was a 40-percent 3-point shooter. It speaks for itself. He seems like a great guy and I’m looking forward to it.”
Hoiberg said he will have individual meetings with the remaining members of the team on Friday. Sophomore guard Thomas Allen Jr. announced after the press conference that he intends to transfer out of the program.
As for Roby, the NBA Draft Combine will be held in Chicago May 14-19. The NCAA’s deadline for underclassmen to withdraw from the draft is May 29 and the draft itself is set for June 20.
On Friday, Roby announced on social media that he was officially entering the draft but would maintain his college eligibility throughout the process.
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.