News broke last week that one of Nebraska’s top targets in the last couple of recruiting cycles, 4-star point guard Carter Whitt, had changed his mind about playing out his senior season and was ready to enroll in college for the spring semester.
Last week, Whitt tweeted out that he would be announcing his commitment on Monday afternoon. After the rumors started circulating about Whitt’s impending commitment, experts for both Rivals and 247Sports entered their predictions that he would be a Husker. In fact, I didn’t see a single prediction for any other school.
However, when 3 p.m. rolled around on Monday, it wasn’t the scarlet and cream Whitt was rocking in his commitment tweet edit.
— Carter (@carterwhitt) September 21, 2020
The 6-foot-3, 170-pound point guard from Raleigh, North Carolina, chose to stay close to home and pick the school his father played for over the Huskers. The Demon Deacons apparently did a good job of keeping things close to the vest during their recruitment of him as I don’t remember hearing them mentioned really at all in anything I read about Whitt.
However, it seems the coaching change (from Danny Manning to Steve Forbes) changed things dramatically for Whitt and Forbes did a great job of sealing the deal without letting anyone know how good they felt about his chances.
Nebraska offered Whitt back on Dec. 2 of 2019 and quickly made him a priority. The dynamic distributor is the kind of point guard that has thrived in Fred Hoiberg’s system over the years. He took an official visit to Nebraska in February. Throughout his recruitment, Whitt strongly considered reclassifying to 2020, and Nebraska was among those schools pushing for him to enroll as early as possible.
However, on March 24, Whitt announced that he had decided to stay in the 2021 class, transferring to prep school powerhouse Brewster Academy for his senior year. Nebraska continued to pursue Whitt as a 2021 target but moved on and filled out the rest of its roster.
Pittsburgh transfer Trey McGowens committed to Nebraska on April 4, Division II Indianapolis transfer Trevor Lake picked the Huskers on April 28 and 2020 center Eduardo Andre filled Nebraska’s last scholarship when he committed on May 12. Fast-forward to June when Wisconsin transfer Kobe King changed his mind about joining the Huskers and rather than leaving the scholarship open, the coaches dialed up Elijah Wood and let him know they had a spot for him. The Huskers were originally recruiting Wood for the 2021 class as he had planned to do a prep year at Hargrave Military Academy.
With McGowens’ availability up in the air pending a waiver, the Huskers were a little shallow in the backcourt, which is probably why Nebraska pushed to fill the scholarship instead of saving it for a potential mid-year transfer. That made sense at the time, but it certainly complicated things when Whitt decided to jump back into the 2020 class (or would it be the 2020.5 class?). To pick Nebraska, he either would have had to walk-on for the spring semester or someone currently on scholarship would have had to transfer out before the second semester.
It’s hard to tell how much of a factor that played in Whitt’s ultimate decision (if there’s anything Hoiberg’s first year at Nebraska has taught us it’s that his staff probably would have done whatever it took to make it work), but Wake Forest having an open scholarship probably didn’t help.
Regardless of what led to Whitt going elsewhere, it’s a big blow for Hoiberg’s recruiting efforts in Lincoln, especially after the Huskers also struck out with 4-star center Adama Sanogo who committed to Connecticut in May and reclassified to 2020. Based on interviews following the commitment, Nebraska wasn’t even really in it for Sanogo at the end despite investing a lot of time and effort into his recruitment.
At No. 63 in the 247Sports Composite, Whitt would have been not only the highest-ranked recruit Hoiberg’s landed at Nebraska, he would have been the highest-rated recruit Nebraska’s has landed during the 247Sports era, topping Glynn Watson Jr. (No. 76 in 2015).
Under Hoiberg, Nebraska will always be one of the most active teams in the transfer portal, but Hoiberg and Matt Abdelmassih were also able to add some highly-regarded high school recruits in addition to the transfers at Iowa State.
Here are the high school recruits Hoiberg has landed at Nebraska through two recruiting cycles along with their 247Sports Composite ranking: Yvan Ouedraogo (No. 168), Samari Curtis (No. 192), Akol Arop (No. 326), Kevin Cross (No. 473), Eduardo Andre (No. 206), and Elijah Wood (No. 414). Two of those guys—Curtis and Cross—are already gone.
The absence of 4- and 5-star commits certainly isn’t for a lack of trying; Nebraska handed out more than 20 offers to top-150 recruits in the 2020 and 2021 classes. Hoiberg has a lot of things going for him with his track record at Iowa State and his time in the NBA, but he’s also battling Nebrasketball’s less-than-stellar history and reputation. A seven-win first season in Lincoln certainly didn’t inspire confidence in Hoiberg’s ability to elevate Nebraska beyond its historical struggles.
That’s why this season will be very important for Hoiberg. Nebraska’s current recruiting pitch just hasn’t worked with the blue chip prospects the coaches have honed in on. Hoiberg’s name isn’t enough; the staff needs proof of concept in Lincoln to go with it’s coach’s reputation. Nebraska needs to win.
Ironically enough, it’s going to be on the transfers to elevate Nebraska’s high school recruiting. Dalano Banton, Shamiel Stevenson and Derrick Walker have all had a full year to polish their games and learn Hoiberg’s system. Teddy Allen was one of the most prolific players in all of junior college last season, and Lat Mayen has the coaches excited with what he’s shown them thus far. That group cannot disappoint like the previous group of transfers (outside of perhaps Haanif Cheatham) did last year.
The Huskers don’t have to make the NCAA Tournament this year, but they do have to show they’re on a trajectory to get there in the near future. Recruits need to see they can go to Lincoln and be a part of a winning program.
Hoiberg already has NBA pedigree and a system that’s fun to play in working for him, and based on what I’ve heard from recruits he and Abdelmassih do a great job of selling those things. But to beat out the programs Nebraska is recruiting against for top talent, they’re going to need a little bit more.
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.