Nebraska’s preparations for the upcoming Italy trip continued on Tuesday with practice No. 4 and Coach Fred Hoiberg opened the doors to the local media to see what the new-look Huskers have going on.
Every player but freshman forward Yvan Ouedraogo (who is with the U18 French National team preparing for the European Championships) was present and accounted for, although sophomore point guard Cam Mack was in street clothes as he is finishing up some academic work. Junior forward Derrick Walker, a transfer from Tennessee, shot around prior to practice but did not participate in the practice itself.
Most of the team arrived early to warm up and get some shots up. A few of the guys played a little one-on-one. Before too long, Hoiberg came out and took the team back to watch some video for about 10 minutes before they returned to the court and began practice in earnest.
The practice started with a lot of work on defensive concepts. The first drill was designed to work on staying attached on cuts and hand-offs with the interior defender opening up a window, and then they shifted to blitzing ball screens.
After that, they spent a long time working on a staple of any basketball practice, shell drill. It’s a four-on-four defensive drill where the offense moves the ball around the perimeter and the defense rotates form on the ball to gap position to help position. Eventually they add cuts and drives to test the defense’s rotations. Doc Sadler led the drill but Hoiberg stepped in a couple of times as well for some instruction.
Next up was a rebounding drill where they focused on making and holding contact until the ball came down off the rim. After securing the rebound, the player threw an outlet pass to a coach and he swung it to Hoiberg in the middle of the floor, who was the one taking the shots.
The focus finally shifted to the offensive side after that with a shooting drill. One player started on the wing and drove to the middle of the floor before kicking it to a player on the opposite wing, spaced out. That player swung the ball to the corner for a shot than stepped back and caught a second ball from a coach to take a shot from the wing.
The Huskers closed out the portion of practice open to the full media with a drill that saw a hand-off turn into a pick-and-roll with the roll man catching the ball and finishing and the guard flaring out to catch a pass and shoot the ball.
>> Hoiberg has a blue arc marked on the court a few feet behind the 3-point line to emphasize spacing. He’s also got seven spots marked sound the court with letters.
that blue line is fred hoiberg's 4-point line. i like it. pic.twitter.com/5LxmxmI5nB
— Derek Peterson (@DrPeteyHV) July 23, 2019
>> Dalano Banton, Matej Kavas and Kevin Cross are all listed at 6-foot-8 on the roster, but Cross, a freshman forward from Little Rock, Arkansas, looked to be closer to Akol Arop’s height (6-foot-6) than Banton’s. Cross has some work to do to transform his body, but he displayed a soft touch during the shooting drill, particularly from the corner.
>> During a five-on-five portion later on in practice, Nebraska ran with a lineup where Banton was initiating things and Kavas and Shamiel Stevenson (listed at 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds) made up the frontcourt, giving a glimpse into the kind of flexibility this roster offers.
>> Walk-on freshman Charlie Easley, a Lincoln Pius X product, was impressive throughout the practice with his communication and his ability to knock down shots. He doesn’t look like a freshman physically. At one point during a shell drill, he directed Kavas on a rotation.
>> If there was a main takeaway to be had, it was movement. Every drill featured minimal dribbling, a great deal of passing and lots of movement around the floor. Whereas the previous era was defined by stale offense and lots of standing around, Hoiberg has been known for moving the floor. Nebraska still has a lot of work to do, but it appears the Huskers have a number of guys comfortable handling the ball, and that should only help when it comes to diversifying the attack.