Classes for the first summer session at Nebraska began on Monday. After an eventful first couple of months on the job for Fred Hoiberg as he and his staff worked to put together a brand new roster, most of those players have finally arrived in Lincoln.
“It’s been a crazy, I guess about seven weeks now since I took over the job,” Hoiberg said at the Big Red Blitz event in Fremont. “I’ve got two points coming back from last year’s roster with Thor [Thorbjarnarson], he’s the only guy that has any points or experience from last year’s team … We’ve got 11 new guys on our team. It’s going to be a lot of experimenting this summer with our practices. We’ve got a trip coming up to Italy and we’re going to have the chance to have 10 free practices leading into that to hopefully give us a head start going into the season.”
After scrambling to put together a roster, it’s time for Hoiberg to start to get to know his players. Summer workouts began on Sunday. However, Hoiberg won’t have the full complement of 16 players for this first session, which adds a wrinkle to the offseason process of building chemistry and learning what the players are capable of.
“The first summer session we should have 10, and that includes Charlie Easley and Jace Piatkwoski, two players that are going to walk on for us, and we really like both those guys,” Hoiberg said. “Then we’ll get a few others that are finishing up academics and a few others — Yvan [Ouedraogo], our French player, he’s playing in the under-18 World Championships, so we’ve got some that will be here and then we’ll mix them in as they come. This is a time for us to get to work with our players and get a head start going into the season.”
Bret Porter, the newest walk-on commit out of Millard North, made it 11 players on campus as he committed on Thursday and began classes on Monday.
Hoiberg will get a chance to see what guys are capable of in workouts, but one can only learn so much from that setting. The trip to Italy will take place in early August and almost everyone should be on campus by then outside of Ouedraogo, who will be participating in the U18 World Championships with France.
“It’s a great luxury to have the foreign trip, it really is a great opportunity, especially when you have this many new faces and obviously a new staff in place to try to get those guys to figure out your system both offensively and defensively,” Hoiberg said. “We’re excited to get rolling.”
The tour will take the Huskers through Rome, Florence and Lake Como, competing against local teams in exhibition games along the way. The trip will give Hoiberg his first opportunity to see his team competing as a unit against someone other than themselves.
Hail Varsity explored what Nebraska’s slew of transfers will likely bring to the team, but Hoiberg also has four scholarship true freshmen joining the team this year. What are his expectations for the young guys, particularly Ouedraogo and Kevin Cross, the only post players on the team?
“I’m going into it with an open mind,” Hoiberg said. “I don’t think there’s going to be real high expectations, mostly based on what’s coming back. We have 2 points coming back from last year’s roster and there’s a lot of talent that this team lost, not only with [Isaiah] Roby but with [Isaac] Copeland and James Palmer and Glynn Watson. Those are four very high-level players so we’ve got a lot to replace. But there’s a lot of opportunity for our guys coming in. I know they’re going to come in and compete for those spots.”
Assistant coach and lead recruiter Matt Abdelmassih is the one who did the leg work of assembling this roster. Now it’s time for Hoiberg to do what he does best.
“I like the skill set of our players,” Hoiberg said. “What exactly it looks like I don’t know yet, just because we haven’t had any time to work our guys out. We’re going to take these first couple weeks to get to know each other but we’re going to set the tone early for the type of work it’s going to take to achieve our goals. I do think our guys will play together. I think they’re all great kids and hopefully we can go out there and put a style of play that fans can be proud of.”
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. 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.