Senior guard Johnny Trueblood has a decision to make. He knows it. Nebraska basketball fans know it (and have let him know with tweet after tweet after tweet).
Here’s the thing: Trueblood does have one remaining year of eligibility left. After walking on as a freshman for the 2015-16 season, Trueblood opted not to return for his sophomore season. After a year away, he returned to the program on June 7, 2017.
That sophomore season that never was could prove to be interesting for Trueblood. He could return to Nebraska for the 2019-20 season if he wanted to.
But, does he want to?
“That's something I’ve got to think about,” Trueblood said Wednesday following Nebraska’s 80-76 NIT win over Butler.
Trueblood, a graduate of Elkhorn (Neb.) South, wants to coach. He specifically wants to coach at the Division I level, starting as a graduate assistant to get there. His plan—for now—is to start contacting coaches and seeing where the connections might lead.
His teammates call him a “great basketball man.” He’s built to be a coach. Junior forward Isaiah Roby wouldn’t be surprised if Trueblood is Nebraska’s head coach one day. Senior forward Tanner Borchardt agrees.
“I'm excited to see what he does in the future,” Borchardt said. “I know he's going to try to get a GA job after this whether he comes back next year or not. I don't really know the process after that, but when he does become a coach at whatever level, he's going to be great.
“He's such a good basketball mind.”
Following Nebraska’s win over Butler—the Huskers’ first in the postseason (not including conference tournaments) since 2008 when the Huskers beat Charlotte in the first round of the NIT—Trueblood took to the podium in the media room. He fielded questions about the win and what it all meant, which Trueblood placed firmly on the team. He’s not one to take too much credit or let the spotlight shine too brighlty on himself alone.
It wasn’t until he was back in the locker room, seated on a bench in the middle of the room with an open pack of king-size Gushers at his side, that Trueblood finally talked about himself.
“I've used ‘excited’ a lot,” Trueblood said about the last couple of weeks. “I've just used excited, surreal a lot, and it's been a great experience, this whole four years and just to end it this way.”
Trueblood paused, almost instinctually.
“We're such a good group,” he said. “We really deserve this.”
That’s the thing about Johnny Trueblood. Even in a moment when he could say anything about himself—and deserve to do so—he diverts the attention back to the team. It’s the makings of a good coach, right?
Yes, but what makes Roby and Borchardt and Nebraska fans pause is everything Trueblood has done on the court since the Huskers’ final regular season game. In the 77 minutes he played against Iowa, Rutgers and Maryland, Nebraska outscored opponents by 48 points when Trueblood was on the floor. He had a defensive rating of 88.3 over that same stretch — meaning opponents were averaging .88 points a possession when he was on the court (that’s good).
Against Butler, he finished with six points, seven rebounds and five assists. His fingerprints were all over Nebraska’s win Wednesday night. It makes sense that he was met with "John-ny, John-ny" chants from the crowd.
Nebraska fans aren’t the only ones who want Trueblood back next season. Roby does too. Roby had to be a little coy about his reasons—he has his own decision to make too—but he did say “we need to be back” before a sly smile switched it to “Johnny needs to be back.”
Trueblood’s older brother wants him back too. He’s been wanting Trueblood to stay one more season at Nebraska for awhile now.
“He's been wanting me to do an extra year before these last two weeks anyway,” Trueblood said. “It's not just because I started to play well.”
The playing well doesn’t hurt though.
Let’s just say Trueblood has a lot to think about. In a lot of ways, he’s ready for the next step in his life and to start coaching. In others, one more year in a Nebraska uniform is a bit appealing.
For now, Trueblood’s mind is focused on one thing: Nebraska’s matchup with TCU. The Huskers head to Fort Worth, Texas, on Sunday for Round 2 of the NIT. Tipoff is set for 8:30 p.m. CT on Sunday on ESPNU.