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Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Keisei Tominaga Talks Decision to Return, Fred Hoiberg Discusses Next Season’s Outlook

June 02, 2023

Keisei Tominaga brought good news to Nebraska men’s basketball this week, announcing Wednesday that he’d be returning for another year with the Huskers.

The guard broke out down the stretch of the 2022-23 season, enough so that it was reasonable for him to test the NBA waters. Tominaga didn’t receive an invite to the NBA Combine or the G League’s equivalent, although he did have a seemingly solid workout with the Indiana Pacers. At the end of the process, he decided to return for his fifth college season and third with the Huskers.

Tominaga and head coach Fred Hoiberg spoke about the sharpshooter’s return in a press conference Friday. Of course, the head coach was happy to have him back, saying retaining him was one the biggest offseason goals.

“I want to start this off by just saying how excited all of us are to get Keisei back for one more year,” Hoiberg said. “Obviously the impact that he had on our team… really helped us to the best stretch that we had all season with having the best record in the Big Ten from February 1st on, and a lot of that was due to Keisei and his overall play and just the overall impact that I think he had on our team, on our fans.”

Tominaga, an all-conference honorable mention, averaged 13.1 points on 50.3% shooting last year, along with making 40% of his threes. He scored at least 20 points in seven of the last nine games of the season, averaging over three makes from beyond the arc in that stretch.

He has professional aspirations, but decided to delay that jump one more year. Beyond showing that last season’s hot streak was more than just that, a major factor was Tominaga feeling that Nebraska offered him the best chance at making strides in his game.

“I was thinking like, ‘What’s the place I can improve the most,'” Tominaga said at Friday’s press conference. “And this is a place I can improve a lot.”

Those areas of improvement include defense, passing and getting stronger. He’s got the scoring part down for the most part, whether it’s shooting threes or finishing around the rim.

Tominaga is set to once again star on the Husker roster, although with a few notable changes to the players around him. Guard Sam Griesel and forward Derrick Walker have graduated and won’t be starting alongside Tominaga, who had an especially potent connection with the latter on the court. Hoiberg likes the playmaking abilities of offseason frontcourt transfer additions Rienk Mast and Josiah Allick to keep that going.

“We’ll see if they can have the same impact that Derrick did for Keisei,” Hoiberg said. “I think that’s a big reason that Keisei shot such a high percentage, especially inside the arc, and then Griesel got Keisei a lot of shots as well. So the importance of our guys coming in and building that chemistry I think that our team had all last season is important.”

Opponents might turn a bit more focus to Tominaga next season, now that he’s established himself as a key threat rather than suddenly emerging. He’s excited for that opportunity, however, and believes the off-ball movement he excels at will keep the pressure on the defense.

“It’s gonna be hard to guard me and then it’s gonna make my teammates open and so I just got to keep moving like I did last season,” he said. “I’m prepared for it.”

He and the team will look to continue improving, coming off a 16-16 season that ended with a first-round conference tournament loss. It was the best record of Hoiberg’s tenure with the Huskers, but still not close to where they want to be.

Should Tominaga continue to play at a high level, Nebraska will have a shot at further improvement and the guard could be set up better for an entry into the NBA.

Other news and notes

>> Hoiberg also gave updates on players recovering from injury. Juwan Gary is “almost full strength” after a shoulder injury and surgery ended his season in January. He’ll return to the court Monday, although isn’t expected to be cleared for contact until next month. Blaise Keita is three-to-four weeks away from being cleared, still recovering from ankle surgery and set to start doing some “light work” on the floor. Josiah Allick is in a similar situation as Keita, although perhaps a week or two behind his fellow forward.

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