Nebraska Basketball Review: Looking Back
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

Nebraska Basketball Review: Looking Back, and Ahead, at Point Guard

April 24, 2018

Spring football is officially in the books, Tim Miles has his contract extension in hand (albeit it for only one more year) and recruiting season is in full swing. That means it’s a perfect time to look back at the year that was in Nebrasketball. 

The Huskers found more success in 2017-18 than they had since Miles’ second year on campus when Nebraska made the NCAA Tournament, finishing 22-11 overall and 13-5 in the Big Ten. However, Nebraska was left out of the NCAA Tournament as the team’s resume included just one win over a team that did make the Big Dance and the Huskers went one-and-done in the NIT. 

For the sake of this review series, we’re breaking things down to point guards (Glynn Watson Jr., Thomas Allen and Evan Taylor), wings (James Palmer Jr., Anton Gill, Nana Akenten, Thorir Thorbjarnarson), forwards (Isaac Copeland, Isaiah Roby, Jack McVeigh) and centers (Jordy Tshimanga, Duby Okeke, Tanner Borchardt). 

Let’s get things started with the point guard position, one that was something of a disappointment based on expectations heading into the season.

Glynn Watson Jr. (Junior)

2017-18 Stats: 10.5 ppg, 34.7% FG, 29.1% 3FG, 78.0% FT, 3.3 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.5 tpg, 1.4 spg, 29.7 mpg

Watson made a huge jump from his freshman to sophomore seasons, putting up 13 points per game and shooting nearly 40 percent from deep. He was the team’s top returning player by far and I wrote before the season that he would be the most important player on the team, ahead of transfers Isaac Copeland and James Palmer Jr. Miles said this would be Watson’s team and called him an all-conference type of player.

However, things didn’t exactly go according to plan as Watson found himself mired in a shooting slump that lasted the entire season. He struggled to get the ball through the rim from everywhere on the court. His 3-point shot abandoned him, he couldn’t finish at the rim and even those tough step-back and pull-up jumpers that made him so tough to guard during his first two seasons fell with less regularity.

Watson had more offensive talent around him this season than last but he only made minor progress as a distributor, averaging just 3.2 assists per game after dishing out 2.6 assists per game as a sophomore. Watson still handled the ball quite a bit and made an impact on the defensive end, but his inability to put points on the board in an efficient manner severely handicapped Nebraska’s offense.

Watson shot 50 percent or better from the field seven times last season with games of 26 and 29 points. He shot 40 percent or worse 22 times. Simply put, Nebraska needed more out of him if they wanted to make the NCAA Tournament.

This is going to be a huge offseason for the Huskers. If Watson can rediscover his shot and become a consistent impact player on offense again, the Huskers will have a chance to build off of what they did this year. 

Evan Taylor (Senior)

2017-18 Stats: 6.4 ppg, 42.8% FG, 44.4% 3FG, 71.6% FT, 3.4 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.2 tpg, 1.0 spg, 25.8 mpg

Taylor probably belongs more in the wing category, but for the sake of balance and because Taylor had to play quite a bit of lead guard over his two seasons in Lincoln, I’m listing the junior college transfer here.

Taylor came out of the gates on fire from deep, showcasing a new and improved jumper that he spent hours working on during the offseason. Taylor hit eight of his 10 3-point attempts in November. However, he shot 5-of-14 (a fairly average 35.7 percent) in December and made just one 3 per month during January, February and March, closing out the season 3-for-12.

Despite his 6-foot-5 frame and solid athleticism, Taylor struggled to finish in the paint as well, shooting just 42.3 percent on 2-pointers for the whole season. Taylor showed some increased aggressiveness, taking more than twice the number of free throws as he did during his junior season, but that only translated to 2.5 attempts per game.

Despite his struggles offensively, Taylor was vital to the team as a captain, a leader and a utility man who took on tough defensive assignments, ran the offense when the ball wasn’t in Watson’s hands and was often the first player on the deck when there was a loose ball.

Taylor started the first 19 games of the season before Tim Miles changed things up and inserted Anton Gill at the shooting guard spot in Taylor’s place, yet the senior captain never objected and gave the same effort off the bench as he did in the starting five.

Ultimately, Taylor probably had to play too large of a role for what his skill set was, but his contributions will definitely be missed next season.

Eric Francis
Freshman guard Thomas Allen


Thomas Allen (Freshman)

2017-18 Stats: 3.2 ppg, 39.5% FG, 35.4% 3FG, 80.0% FT, 1.0 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.6 tpg, 0.2 spg, 9.9 mpg

Taylor was a big recruiting win for the Huskers in the 2017 class as the former North Carolina State commit and 4-star prospect had the likes of Kansas coming after him before he signed with the Huskers, but his impact as a freshman was minimal.

Taylor played both behind Watson as the back-up point guard and next to the junior in smaller lineups, but he never quite found his stride. The sharp-shooting combo-guard hit double-digits just twice as a freshman, coming up big with 13 points against Kansas and scoring a season-high 14 points against a bad Delaware State team a couple of games later. 

Allen wasn’t able to build off of those games in Big Ten play, however, totaling just 39 points on 38 shots in 18 conference games. Allen knocked down nine of his 23 attempts (39.1 percent) during the nonconference but hit just 8 of his 35 (32 percent) in the league. 

Allen struggled in the point guard role, finishing the season with more turnovers (20) than assists (17), but that isn't too terribly surprising for a true freshman. His ball-handling and comfort within the offense should continue to improve as he grows.

Despite his struggles overall, Allen did show flashes of the talent that made him a highly-touted recruit. Allen has the ability to hit shots from the perimeter at a high rate and he’s crafty inside the arc as well with an in-between game including pull-up jumpers and floaters.

Allen making a sophomore leap will be important for the Huskers with Taylor and Gill both graduating and Allen could see an increased role next season playing both the one and the two.

Looking Ahead

Tim Miles thought he had his point guard of the future committed in Xavier Johnson, but the 2018 prospect out of Virginia decommitted and received a release from his letter of intent following the departure of assistant coach Kenya Hunter. Miles said Johnson would have the opportunity to play right away when he arrived in Lincoln, so who fills that role now?

Nebraska offered another point guard prospect in Amir Harris, a 6-foot-5 guard out of Maryland, on April 17 and hopes to get him on campus in the near future. If Nebraska doesn’t land Harris or another point guard who can play right away, it puts even more importance on Watson’s resurgence and Allen’s improvement as the two will be relied upon to handle all of the point guard duties in 2018-19.

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