We’ve entered a new era of Nebraska basketball, there’s no doubt about that.
By the time the 2019-20 season arrives, Husker fans are barely going to recognize the team that takes the court at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Fred Hoiberg’s flipping of the roster continued on Thursday as news broke that freshman big man Brady Heiman had decided to Transfortal.
That leaves Dachon Burke, Karrington Davis, Amir Harris and Thorir Thorbjarnarson as returning Huskers currently on the roster, with Isaiah Roby going through the pre-draft process. We also can’t rule out further attrition at this point.
Fred Hoiberg has already added two graduate transfers, a junior college transfer and a sit-out transfer. He also identified two of Tim Miles’ commits, junior college guard Jervay Green and high school recruit Akol Arop, as players that fit what he wanted to do and retained them as part of his first class. That’s six new players in just over a month on the job, and two of the players set to return did not play a second last season.
Hoiberg has been complimentary of the job Miles did, and his recruiting was good enough for Hoiberg to keep four of the five players that had committed to Nebraska for 2019 or 2020. However, his previous recruiting is a different story. Nebraska’s lack of depth was a big part of the Huskers failing to qualify for the NCAA Tournament after a strong start to the season, and now most of those supporting pieces are headed elsewhere.
For Hoiberg to encourage Heiman to find a new home where he fit better he must have had a pretty good feeling about adding more pieces to the puzzle. Heiman was one of the two players set to be on the roster over 6-foot-6, with the other being the 6-foot-8, 200-pound 3-point specialist in graduate transfer Matej Kavas.
Hoiberg had a pair of 2019 forward recruits in Kevin Cross and Yvan Ouedraogo on campus last weekend and brought in a 7-foot graduate transfer in Jayce Johnson the week before, and I’m sure he’s not done yet.
I can’t help but feel for Heiman, however. He was never supposed to play this season. He made impressive gains over the summer after arriving on campus, but he still needed a redshirt year to develop his body and polish his skills. That was the plan when he committed to Nebraska, the only high-major school that offered him. Creighton recruited him as well, but they wanted him to spend a year at prep school first.
With Nebraska’s lack of depth, he was pressed into duty right away. His playing time was all over the map, however. He logged six DNPs, played five or fewer minutes in 10 games and cracked double figures in just 11 of his 30 games. He didn’t get a year off from the court to develop his body, but he also didn’t get a consistent role to gain experience and grow through making mistakes. Now he’s seeking a fresh start, and I hope he finds the right fit.
Hoiberg was hired to turn the program around and win a lot of games. He’s doing what he feels he needs to do to accomplish that. But that is why I’ve always been in favor of the players having the freedom to do what they need to do as well.
I think a redshirt year would be good for Heiman regardless of where he ends up, but I would hope that he’d be able to get a waiver to play right away if that is what he wants. Through no fault of his own, Nebraska is a very different place than it was when he signed his letter of intent. In fact, I’ll be rooting for all the players who have transferred out of Nebraska since Miles was fired.
I’m very much looking forward to seeing what kind of team Hoiberg can roll out once the season arrives. It’s going to be a long offseason — fortunately broke up by a foreign tour of Italy that will give us a sneak peek at what he has cooking. What Hoiberg has accomplished in just a short time — signing two of the top-35 immediately eligible transfers in the country (according to ESPN’s list), two top-10 junior college recruits (according to JUCORecruiting.com), the top 2019 recruit in Nebraska and a former top-100 recruit who will redshirt this season — is incredible.
Hoiberg didn’t want to get too specific with his timeline for getting the program turned around when he was asked — in a few different ways — at his introductory press conference. But he’s clearly not wasting any time.
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.