Nebraska basketball was scrimmaging to end practice, and the game was close. It was the Red team versus the White team. So close, it was all going to come down to the final possession. Defense gets a stop, they win the game. Offense scores, they win instead.
There was plenty on the line, too. Whoever won the game was awarded free-throw shots and a water break. Whoever lost would get on the line and run.
It all came down to that final possession and, more specifically, to junior forward Isaiah Roby and freshman forward Brady Heiman. Roby was on offense, Heiman on defense. The two met at the rim and Brady blocked Roby's shot.
Heiman's team erupted. They were pumped they didn't have to run. The coaches were pumped because of the physicality Heiman had just displayed. Yet Heiman stayed quiet.
As Roby's team took to the line to run, Heiman's prepared for free throw shots. Assistant coach Armon Gates paused.
"It was probably 30 seconds that went by and I was thinking, ‘What do I do right now?’" Gates told Hail Varsity. "My instincts took over and I told him to go talk to Roby and tell him to get that sh*t out of here."
Coach Tim Miles was standing near Roby as the practice came to an end. That's when he heard some commotion, followed by Heiman slowly approaching Roby.
"So Brady walks by real quietly and says, 'Roby, don't do that. Don’t come in on my house,' or whatever it was," Miles said. "He said it's so apologetically. And by the time he finally said something to Roby, Roby just looked at him like, 'Why are you doing this now?'"
Roby laughed. He shrugged Heiman off, but Gates beamed.
"I think he realizes he can talk a little trash now," Gates said.
Heiman, Nebraska's first in-state high school scholarship recruit since 2001, hails from Springfield, Nebraska. Springfield is located just south of Interstate 80, about 42 miles northeast from Lincoln. The town's population is currently 1,603 residents.
Gates, on the other hand, was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. His coaching career has included stops at TCU, Loyola-Chicago, Northwestern and, most recently, Florida.
When Gates first met Heiman, he was instantly drawn to the 6-foot-11, 215-pound freshman. Sure, Heiman was quiet. That only made Gates like him more.
"Those quiet guys mean they have something in them but don’t know how to express it and how to express themselves," Gates said. "They don’t know how to let their emotions out."
So that's what Gates set out to do. Heiman has the skill. During his career at Platteview High School, the four-year starter finished with 1,315 points along with school records for both rebounds (883) and blocked shots (523). Gates now wants Heiman to take that talent and add just a little more edge.
And the encouragement from Gates has been more than appreciated by Heiman.
"It's helped me a lot just to try to find my place [on the team]," Heiman said. "Telling me, 'You got to do this, do that.' Coach [Gates] has been a big help with what to expect in the post and stuff."
For Miles, the dynamic between Gates and Heiman has been fun to see. He's even enjoyed watching the connection between the two grow in time.
"I would say that Armon has planted his flag into Brady and said, 'You're my project. I'm going to get you out of your shell,'" Miles said. "I think Brady deep down probably enjoys it. It's really not natural for him so I'm sure it's uncomfortable in some ways.
"At the same time, getting a younger big kid kind of out from under his turtle shell is always good for a team."
At the Husker Hoops Preview on Oct. 24, Miles split the team up once again into a Red team and a White team. Heiman was on the White team, across from the two players he goes up against most often: Roby and senior forward Tanner Borchardt.
Heiman was only one of two Huskers not to crack the scoring column that night, but Gates isn't worried. There's no pressure on Heiman right now. All he wants for Heiman is to get on the court, play hard and be as physical as he can.
He also wants Heiman to continue growing and evolving. Part of that is learning to trash talk just a little bit, which can help build excitment during big moments for a team.
Gates continues to work on that with Heiman. It even recently came up in a film review with the team.
"We were in film recently and Gates just yells from the back of the room, 'Brady, what do you say?' and Brady didn't say anything," Miles said. "He says, 'Brady, you say, 'Get that out of here.' Brady doesn't say anything and I'm watching the next clip now, I got to rewind it.
"'Brady, what do you say?' and Brady kind of real quietly says, 'Get that out of here.' The whole room just cracked up."
So maybe trash talking isn't Heiman's strong suit just yet. Even he admits it's a work in progress. There's a reason Gates is putting in the time.
“I’m preparing Brady for everything he is going to see every day in the Big Ten conference and college basketball," Gates said. "You’re going to play against an opposing player or an opposing team that’s excited to play against someone different and they don’t care if they’re hurting some guy's feelings.
"I’m preparing Brady for that moment."
Gates wants to be sure when the day comes that an opponent blocks one of Heiman's shots, he's ready. He needs Heiman to be able to bounce back because it's tough enough already to be a freshman on a team. Put that freshman in a difficult conference like the Big Ten and it's even tougher.
"You try to put guys in position they’re going to be in in practice and see how they respond to it," Gates said. "Brady has honestly been responding and I’m proud of the way he’s growing both on and off the court when it comes to interacting with teammates.”
Next up? How Heiman interacts with opponents. And with the 2018-19 season finally here, Gates is ready to see exactly what Heiman can do on the court.
That hopefully includes a little trash talking, too.
Erin is the Deputy Editor and Digital Marketing Strategist for Hail Varsity. She has covered Nebraska athletics since 2012, which has included stops at Bleacher Report, Cox Media Group’s Land of 10, and even Hail Varsity (previously from 2012-2017). She has also been featured on the Big Ten Network, NET’s Big Red Wrap-Up, and a varsity of radio shows nationwide. When not covering the Huskers, Erin is probably at Chipotle.