All things considered, C.J. Wilcher had a pretty strong first season at Nebraska. The Xavier transfer shot over 40% from 3 while serving as the team’s sixth man.
However, looking back, Wilcher wishes he had handled the first half of the season a bit differently. He made a change to his daily routine midyear that he felt made a big difference.
“The second half of the year I started meditating and trying to just stay even, stay calm,” Wilcher said. “We all know how that ended for me, how the second half of the year went for me. So it’s just finding consistency in that, and I feel like I have. I’m just open to finding different ways to master my mindset and how to control that … Just trying to find more ways I could add to what I’m already doing.”
Wilcher said he meditates for 30 minutes every morning using a video on YouTube called “Meditation for Positive Energy,” and the change bore itself out in the numbers last season.
In Wilcher’s first 13 games — including the entirety of the nonconference slate and two conference games, Wilcher averaged 7.4 points on 42% shooting (33.3% from 3) in 24.8 minutes per game. In the final 19 games — all against Big Ten competition — the 6-foot-5 guard averaged 8.5 points on 49.2% shooting (46.5% from 3) in 29.7 minutes per game.
Wilcher said “staying positive” was the biggest lesson he learned from his first season in Lincoln, one that saw the Huskers go 10-23. The sharpshooter also focused on the mental side of things this offseason as he looked to expand his game.
“[I focused on] playmaking and then always shot-making, and then just the mental part,” Wilcher said. “As we all know, life happens; you hit a lot of adversity sometimes, so just staying even through those times and keeping the faith and things like that.”
Ball-handling is the biggest area he focused on, and again, the mental side of things was more important than the skill work itself.
“Being more confident in my dribble,” WIlcher said. “I’ve always worked on ball-handling, but just the confidence part of it; back to the mental. That was just the main thing, being confident and working on it so I could be confident.”
His offseason work wasn’t all mental, however. Perhaps the biggest change he made was physical. After playing at a listed 221 pounds last season (heavier than everyone but the team’s three centers and 6-foot-10 forward/center Wilhelm Breidenbach), Wilcher went about cutting weight and transforming his body this offseason, a change he said he felt he had to make.
“I feel better,” Wilcher said. “It took a lot of work, but this has been the process my whole time playing basketball. I played in like a new skin every year in terms of my my physique, how I’m built and things like that. So that’s just something I constantly do, just another evolution of that.”
Wilcher said an improved diet and various types of fasting were the key behind his weight loss.
“I’ll eat protein,” Wilcher said. “So I talked to [performance nutrition coordinator] Jake [Blattner] when I first got back and before I left too. So I’d have eight ounces of a protein, then I’d have like a scoop of rice. I don’t really eat like potatoes and things like that, so I’d have scoop of rice and a vegetable. I’ll do that twice a day and have a protein shake. When I’m intermittent fasting, when I was fasting, like I would water fast for a few days and I’d just be strictly water, lemon water and things like that.”
Wilcher said the hardest part of the diet change was giving up candy — he’s a big fan of SweeTart Ropes. Wilcher said it was difficult at first, but his mindset was that if he could get through that he could get through anything.
“I feel lighter, quicker, more athletic,” Wilcher said. “It’s easier to get off the ground on my jump shot. Things like that. I’m quicker, lighter. Those things translate to the defensive end. So that was definitely a focus of it as well. That was a big point of it too, getting my weight down and getting physically right so I can be a better defender.”
Improving the defensive end of the floor has been a big focus for the Huskers this offseason, and it’s an area in which Wilcher struggled last season. At times, the Huskers had him playing the power forward spot following Breidenbach’s season-ending injury, defending bigs rather than guards because of his strength but also because he struggled to stay in front of quicker perimeter players.
Wilcher said he’s seen a big difference on defense team-wide during their summer workouts.
“Just the energy and attention detail,” Wilcher said. “It’s not perfect, we still get yelled at oftentimes, but just the fact that we want to do it and we get corrected on it and then we fix it immediately. We have guys that go back and offer to go watch film; that didn’t happen last year. So I think those are the biggest things that lead into that part of the game.”
Defense isn’t the only area where Wilcher has noticed a change this offseason. He’s noticed a shift in the overall team culture and the way the players interact with both the coaches and with each other.
“We don’t really talk back,” Wilcher said. “Of course guys have those moments, bad days and things like that, somebody has something to say. But for the most part, I feel like we are open to listening to the coaches and the quick adjustments, we get instruction and then we try to implement it right away, whether it’s the coaches talking to somebody directly or the whole team. So I think that’s something that is different culturally.
“And then also too, the fact that we always are with each other constantly. Juwan [Gary] is over at my house and [Quaran McPherson] and I are always at Denim [Dawson]’s house all the time, and vice versa. And every weekend we’re all chilling with each other. So I think that’s the biggest cultural change, that we just enjoy being around each other.”
From meditation to fasting to whatever comes next, C.J. Wilcher is always looking for ways to improve himself, and Fred Hoiberg and the Huskers are counting on seeing a new and improved Wilcher on the court in 2022-23 as he looks to build on a strong first season in Lincoln.
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.