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Nebraska Cornhuskers forward Derrick Walker makes a dunk against Minnesota
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Nebraska Basketball Player Reviews: Frontcourt

March 27, 2021

Year two has come a close for Fred Hoiberg with Nebraska basketball. We’ve had a couple of weeks to digest everything that happened this season, and now it’s time to look back and reflect on the season.

Hail Varsity is separating the roster into sections and breaking down the team player by player. We already covered the backcourt and wings, so all that’s left is the frontcourt.

Lat Mayen

2020-21 Stats: 8.6 PPG, 39.6% FG (34.8% 3FG), 77.8% FT, 4.5 RPG, 0.6 APG, 1.5 TPG, 0.5 BPG, 25.6 MPG

Mayen was one of only two Huskers (Trey McGowens being the other) who played and started all 27 games. As a stretch four he probably belongs more in the wing group, but since he started all seven nonconference games at the five I figured I’d include him here.

The transfer from Chipola College got off to a slow start as he readjusted to the Division I level. Hoiberg opted for extra floor spacing by starting him at the five instead of a traditional center to open the season, but Mayen shot just 33.3% from the field including 32.4% from deep while averaging 7.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.7 turnovers in 23.7 minutes per game in seven nonconference games.

Nebraska forward Lat Mayen (11) shoots the ball against Purdue at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Feb. 20, 2021. Photo by Eric Francis.

Mayen continued to struggle into conference play. He found a little bit of success against Michigan State at the start of January, shooting 2-of-3 from 3 and scoring eight points, then followed that up with 15 points on 5-of-9 from 3 and six rebounds against Indiana, his best performance to that point.

Then COVID-19 swept through the program, but the pause didn’t slow Mayen down any. He scored in double figures in Nebraska’s first four games back, and in that six-game stretch (including the Michigan State and Indiana games) he shot 17-of-39 (43.6%) from 3.

Then he went cold again, cracking double figures just one time in his next seven games while scoring four points or fewer in four of them. He shot 5-of-18 from 3 in the first six of those games before hitting three 3s on six attempts in the seventh for nine points in Nebraska’s win over Minnesota. He followed that up with a career-high 25 points (shooting 9-of-11 overall and 5-of-7 from deep) against Rutgers then had his first double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds at Iowa.

However, Mayen closed the season with a pair of seven-point, 1-of-6 3-point-shooting games and grabbed just six rebounds between them.

Overall, Mayen was better against Big Ten competition than he was against Nebraska’s nonconference foes (9.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 0.4 assists and 1.5 turnovers per game while shooting 41.1% from the field and 35.6% from 3), but he was so up-and-down it made it difficult to rely on him.

Mayen isn’t particularly big or strong and he isn’t very quick or athletic, and those physical limitations meant he had a tough time staying out of foul trouble and contributing outside of his 3-point shot or the occasional well-timed cut or slip to the rim.

Mayen led the Huskers in 3-pointers, but he was only fourth in percentage. That number is going to have to go up next season if he wants to continue having a big role in the rotation.

Derrick Walker

2020-21 Stats: 5.9 PPG, 60% FG, 45.5% FT, 4.8 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.6 TPG, 0.9 BPG, 20.7 MPG, 16 games

Derrick Walker’s suspension was a brutal blow to the Huskers for the first half of the season. Nebraska was able to appeal that suspension down to 11 games, and Walker made his debut against Indiana on Jan. 10, scoring 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting in 26 minutes.

Nebraska forward Derrick Walker (13) makes a layup against the Indiana Hoosiers in the first half Sunday, Jan. 10, at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska. Photo by John S. Peterson.

Right after that, the Huskers had to shut everything down for a month. Walker was already way behind from a conditioning standpoint because of the suspension, and then the pause on activities set him back even more. He battled both foul trouble and conditioning throughout the rest of the season, but even though he didn’t post big numbers he immediately became an important part of what Nebraska wanted to do on both ends of the floor.

Walker wasn’t consistent with his scoring production, but he did show some ability in the post and converted 60% of his shots from the field overall. Nebraska also ran a lot of its offense through him at the top of the key to help make up for some of their issues at the point guard position. Walker’s assist percentage was on par with all of Nebraska’s guards not named Dalano Banton.

After Walker’s 10-point debut, he didn’t score in double figures again until senior day. Walker had his two best games of the season in Nebraska’s two late-season wins (which probably wasn’t a coincidence). He had 12 points, nine rebounds, three blocks and two assists against Minnesota then followed that up with 14 points, six rebounds and two assists against Rutgers. Those were the only two games all season he took more than the seven shots he attempted in his debut.

Walker was a non-factor against Iowa, but totaled 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting, 14 rebounds, eight assists, three steals and three blocks in Nebraska’s last two games.

I’m excited to see what Walker can do with a whole offseason to build his stamina back up and build up more chemistry with his teammates. He’s not going to post all-conference numbers, but he can definitely help Nebraska win. Walker’s going to have to find a way to stay out of foul trouble, and improvement from the foul line would be nice too (though he’s now 25-of-66 for his career, so that might be a lost cause).

Eduardo Andre

2020-21 Stats: 2.7 PPG, 64.7% FG, 45% FT, 2.2 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.5 TPG, 0.3 BPG, 8.8 MPG, 20 games

Like Walker, the freshman suffered his own setback before he ever set foot on the court for the Huskers as he was the first member of the team to contract COVID-19 during the season. He missed the first six games of the season, and upon his return he had to work through conditioning issues on top of the typical adjustment period every freshman goes through at the collegiate level.

Nebraska center Eduardo Andre (35) makes a jump hook against Minnesota center Sam Freeman (32) in the second half Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021, in Lincoln, Neb. Photo by John S. Peterson.

Andre put up nine points, four rebounds and two blocks in 14 minutes in his debut against NAIA Doane, but was not a big part of Nebraska’s rotation after that as he played just 16 minutes and scored six points in Nebraska’s five game heading into the shutdown. He didn’t play at all when Nebraska returned to action a month later against Michigan State.

After that, he logged double-digit minutes in four of his next five games before falling back under 10 minutes his next three. He didn’t score more than two points in any of those games.

Down the stretch of the season, however, Fred Hoiberg really invested in Andre’s development and elevated him to the back-up center spot behind Walker. He played 10-plus minutes in five straight games before logging just eight minutes against Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament. In those six games, Andre totaled 28 points and 17 rebounds, showing significant growth late in the year. His best game came in Nebraska’s senior day win over Minnesota as he put up seven points and six rebounds in 15 minutes.

He still needs to continue developing physically to better handle the rigors of the Big Ten and hold his own against the conference’s big men, but Andre showed a lot to be excited about. He’s long (Hoiberg said his wing span is nearly 7-foot-5 as a 6-foot-10 center), he has touch (he converted a team-best 64.7% of his field goals) and he showed some feel as a passer, ball-handler and interior scorer.

I think Hoiberg feels good about what he has at the center spot with Walker and Andre, and if Andre can make some big strides in the weight room over the offseason he has a chance to play an even bigger role next season and showcase more of the skills that intrigued Hoiberg while evaluating him.

Yvan Ouedraogo

2020-21 Stats: 3.4 PPG, 42.4% FG, 39.1% FT, 3.7 RPG, 0.4 APG, 0.5 TPG, 0.5 BPG, 14.9 MPG, 22 games

Ouedraogo put in a lot of work back home during the pandemic to develop his body, but he failed to take any significant step forward on the court and by the end of the season he had fallen out of the rotation.

Nebraska forward Yvan Ouedraogo (24) shoots over a defender against Purdue at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Feb. 20, 2021. Photo by Eric Francis.

Hoiberg went small throughout the nonconference instead of starting Ouedraogo. The sophomore from France recorded a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds in the nonconference finale against Doane and Hoiberg inserted him into the starting lineup to open Big Ten play, but that only lasted four games. He totaled 22 points and 21 rebounds on 10-of-16 from the field and 2-of-9 from the foul line during those starts.

Then Ouedraogo missed Nebraska’s game against Indiana after testing positive for COVID-19. He played more than 14 minutes once after the Huskers returned to action as he logged 20 minutes against Purdue with star big men Trevion Williams and 7-foot-4 freshman Zach Edey to contend with. He scored seven points in that Purdue game but outside of that, he totaled 11 points with five scoreless games and four DNP-CDs after the Huskers returned to play.

Ouedraogo’s biggest issue was his inability to catch the ball cleanly and finish around the rim. For the second straight year, he shot under 43% from the field with all of his attempts coming at the rim. He took a step back at the free-throw line as well. When Ouedraogo was on the court, the Huskers found him time and time again in advantageous situations in the flow of the offense, and Ouedraogo just couldn’t capitalize nearly often enough.

Ouedraogo moves his feet well defensive and rebounds the ball at a high rate, but he was such a minus on offense that Hoiberg just couldn’t keep sending him out there. He announced he was entering the transfer portal on March 15.

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