Through 11 games, no Husker has scored more points than Keisei Tominaga. Missed games has played a part in that, but even factoring in Derrick Walker, Tominaga is still second on the team in scoring average at 11.5, and he’s doing it on unbelievable efficiency.
Tominaga had a rough first season with the Huskers after two seasons of lighting up the junior college ranks. He certainly had some standout performances, showing glimpses of his potential, but overall he averaged 5.7 points and shot just 37.3% including 33.0% from 3.
Tominaga scored in double figures seven times in 30 games last season and only three teams against high-major opponents (and it took him a lot of shots in two of those games). He’s already reached seven games of 10-plus this season in just 11 games including five of his last six, all against high-major competition.
The 6-foot-2 guard is currently shooting 50% from the field, 42.6% from 3 and 100% from the free-throw line (16-for-16). He’s seventh in the Big Ten in true shooting percentage at 64.5%. Tominaga looks like an entirely different player this season in his second year at the Division I level — though he still plays with the same enthusiasm.
“He’s got such an infectious personality,” Coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He plays the game with such joy and passion, and it’s been good to see his hard work pay off this year and be rewarded for everything that he’s done. But I think when you look back over Keisei’s last year, he’s used to the speed of it. He came in, I think it’s a huge adjustment for everybody, but what he has been able to do after a great summer on his national team and build confidence that way against some of the best players in the world is certainly carrying over to his confidence that he’s playing with right now.”
How has Tominaga been so efficient this season? It starts with his moneymaker: that jump shot.
More than a third of Tominaga’s possessions this season — 34.9%, to be exact — have come in spot-up situations. He’s scoring a ridiculous 1.514 points per possession (PPP), ranked in the 98th percentile nationally.
That PPP figure is so high largely because of his catch-and-shoot opportunities. Tominaga is shooting a blistering 54.5% (12-of-22) on spot-up 3s.
Here’s a compilation of those spot-up 3s against other high-major opponents.
When Tominaga can step into his shot and get his feet set, he’s usually money at this point. He has a good feel for where to go in these situations so his teammates can get him the ball for a good look. Most of those makes were pretty wide open, though the last one over the 6-foot-7 Ethan Morton for Purdue was a different story.
Tominaga has shown he’s more than just a catch-and-shoot guy this season, though, which makes him a more versatile offensive option. He’s actually been rally good at putting the ball on the deck if teams close out had on him. He’s goes 10-for-12 (83.3%!) inside the arc.
Here’s a compilation of Tominaga’s 2-point buckets in spot-up situations.
Tominaga has scored in a variety of ways when teams have chased him off the arc, showing his craft when he’s been able to get all the way to the basket and showing his touch on floaters and pull-ups when he hasn’t.
As deadly as Tominaga’s jumper has been in spot-up situations, he has struggled when Nebraska has tried to weaponize him in other ways, namely shooting off movement. Handoffs and off-screen plays have accounted for 37.7% of his possessions and he’s shot a combine 9-of-25 on them.
He’s scoring 0.739 PPP on 23 handoff possessions, shooting just 2-of-11 on 3s. He’s had a little more success putting the ball on the deck, shooting 4-of-8 inside the arc, but he’s also turned the ball over three times.
He’s scoring 0.706 PPP running off screens, shooting 2-of-8 on 3s and 1-of-7 on 2s (yikes). He isn’t the fleetest of foot, and h simply hasn’t created much separation when he’s tried to run off screens, leading to a lot of very difficult shots that he hasn’t made. That being said, the game-tying 3 at the end of regulation against Purdue was one of those three makes.
We’re talking single-digit possessions on nearly every other play type, which is too small to make much of, but his efficiency is so ridiculously high it’s worth showing the because it shows signs of an expanded scoring arsenal.
First, we know Hoiberg likes to play fast. This year’s team is playing at the slowest pace of the Hoiberg era at Nebraska (tied for the slowest pace of Hoiberg’s entire college coaching career), but it will run strategically and Tominaga has been great on 10 transition possessions, scoring 1.5 PPP as he’s shot 5-of-9 including 4-of-7 from deep.
He does a great shot of taking off as soon as a teammate has secured the rebound and sprints right to the corners. He even took it all the way to the basket himself once when Indiana failed to stop the ball, and when he’s feeling it you might see a transition pull-up like he hit against Purdue.
Second, Tominaga is a perfect 5-of-5 with a foul drawn on six possessions as a cutter. He’s done a good job of reading when a defender is overplaying him and cutting to the rim, and teammates have found him for easy buckets when he’s done so.
Finally, you’re never going to hear Hoiberg call a play for Tominaga to isolate a defender or run a pick-and-roll, but he’s actually shown some flashes of self-creation within the flow of Nebraska’s offense. He’s shot 2-of-3 running pick-and-rolls and has scored on both of his isolation possessions.
He likes that lefty floater off the glass, which is a good tool for someone like him who isn’t often going to be able to finish at the rim. That last clip was one of my favorite plays all season. In the moment when I saw hime wave everybody off, I thought “oh boy.” But he liked his matchup and took advantage of it, finishing with a tough floating scoop shot at the basket.
“He’s just finding his spots and I think he’s really improved as a cutter,” Hoiberg said. “He’s very random in his movements, which is hard to prepare for. But he’s really playing off of Derrick well, and he knows if he cuts hard, cuts with force, that Derrick, a lot of times, will find him and [Sam] Griesel will find him on those cuts and slashes. And then just the confidence he’s playing with right now, those 3s he hit in the Purdue game to get us back into it — I think the second one got it back to a four-point game — and just the atmosphere in there when Keisei’s hitting shots like that is off the charts and it’s fun to see.”
Keisei Tominaga’s play has been one of the bright spots from an otherwise rocky offensive start for the Huskers. He’s finally looking like the knockdown shooter the coaching staff thought he could be when he committed out of Ranger College, and he’s showing signs of being even more than that as well.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.