nebraska basketball player holding ball during practice
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Padding the Stats: On Keisei Tominaga, Bryce McGowens and Dalano Banton

July 28, 2021

Keisei and 3×3

Local media got the chance to speak with 11 different Nebraska basketball players over the past two weeks. One of the players we didn’t get a chance to interview was JUCO transfer Keisei Tominaga, who has been busy back in his home country of Japan.

A new sport, 3×3 basketball, made its debut this year at the Tokyo Summer Olympics, and Tominaga was part of the Japanese national team that just wrapped up its run in the event earlier this week. Japan finished 3-5 overall, falling in the quarterfinals despite giving a good Latvia team a run for its money.

If you’re unfamiliar with 3×3 basketball, it’s a halfcourt three-on-three game that operates with a 12-second shot clock and uses a 1s and 2s scoring system. Games last 10 minutes or until one team reaches 21 points, whichever comes first. The game is incredibly fast-paced with the reduced shot clock and the players clearing the ball to the arc and immediately playing it after made or missed buckets. Perimeter shooting is at a premium with the scoring system making those shots worth double.

Despite playing the fewest amount of minutes on the team, Tominaga — the youngest player the tournament — led Japan with 6.9 points per game on 25-34 (73.5%) inside the arc and 15-42 (35.7%) from the perimeter, and he was the only member on the team with a positive point differential (plus-4).

Tominaga came up big down the stretch, scoring 17 of Japan’s 39 points in its last two games. He scored eight points including the game-winner, shooting 6-of-7 from the field including 2-of-3 from deep in a 21-16 win over China in the final pool game. Japan needed to win that game by at least three in order to advance out of its pool and Tominaga’s 2-pointer sealed a five-point win.

Tominaga scored half of Japan’s points in the quarterfinals, shooting 3-of-6 from 2-point range, but it wasn’t enough as Latvia scored the final two points to seal a 21-18 win and knock the host team out of the tournament.

I’m familiar with the 3×3 game because I’ve covered some games here in Omaha last summer and watched a team of local players with the Red Bull 3X Nationals last month. That team featured former Husker Steffon Bradford, Omaha gross grad Dylan Travis who won a Division II national championship at Florida Southern, Bellevue University grad Klaye Rowe and Nebraska Wesleyan legend Trey Bardsley.

Bardsley, a Beatrice native who scored nearly 2,000 points during his collegiate career, was the star of the team, coming up big in the clutch time after time. He’s not the biggest guy in the world at 5-foot-10, but he’s perfectly suited for the 3×3 style with his quick release and ability to hit difficult perimeter shots in addition to his crafty package of floaters when chased off the line.

All indications are Tominaga’s game is pretty similar to Bardsley’s, so it’s no surprise to see him have success in that 3×3 setting, even on the sport’s biggest stage at 20 years old.

Nebraska has a lot of guys vying for playing time, and now that his run in the Olympics has come to an end the Japanese sharpshooter will add himself to that mix. I have no idea what the rotation is going to look like at this point, but I feel confident in saying that Tominaga at least belongs in the “best shooter on the team” discussion which, according to the Huskers, includes a handful of newcomers in addition to a couple vets in Kobe Webster and Lat Mayen.

Living up the the Hype

One player we did get to speak with is Bryce McGowens, Nebraska’s first 5-star high school signee. He was thoughtful and gave some really interesting answers during his 12-minute interview, but perhaps more importantly, reports from behind the scenes paint him as looking every but the part of a 5-star prospect.

He received rave reviews from his teammates during their time in front of the media as well.

Wilhelm Breidenbach, a 4-star prospect in his own right, was pretty measured in his praise: “He’s a pretty good shot creator. He’s pretty explosive around the rim, obviously.”

C.J. Wilcher, a transfer from Xavier heading into his second freshman season, went a bit further: “I think he’s a stud. I think he’s very good. I feel like he’s a three-level scorer, super athletic, great teammate. He plays defense, has long arms. I think the sky’s the limit for the kid.”

Finally, Kobe Webster, the super-senior who has been around the block a few times and has seen his fair share of big-time players, was effusive in his praise for his new teammate: “I don’t know if there is a ceiling. The dude can do everything. He can handle the ball, shoot it, make plays for others. To him, he’s not a 5-star. He doesn’t have that sort of aura, that mentality, the arrogance. He’s super humble, quiet, but he has that switch for sure. He can get going at any point. I think he’s going to get stronger, get used to the physicality of things and he’s going to be a great player for a long time.”

Unfortunately, fans are going to have to wait another three months until they get to see McGowens play in person, but I think it’s OK to start getting excited now.

Dalano and the Draft

The 2021 NBA Draft is set for Thursday night and a former Husker in Dalano Banton is among those hoping to hear his name called.

By the end of the season, Banton leaving for the NBA after playing just one season at Nebraska didn’t seem like it was in the cards. He struggled mightily after the program’s midseason COVID-19 shutdown.

However, after what was apparently a strong showing during his pre-draft process he heard enough that he felt secure in keeping his name in the draft. His performance during the first half of the season definitely had NBA scouts intrigued, and it’s probably pretty easy to write off what happened after that as an outlier so long as he looked like the guy from November and December during his workouts, and that was apparently the case.

Banton certainly isn’t going to be a lottery pick. He’s not going to be a first-round pick. Heck, he might not get drafted at all. However, whether some team picks him late in the second round or he signs as an undrafted free agent, I’d expect to see him on a two-way contract.

Obviously, the goal is a fully guaranteed contract, but getting one’s foot in the door as a two-way player can be a path to achieving that goal. It will allow him to spend time in an NBA organization and see what it takes to play at that level, and will also provide him an opportunity to get on the court in the G League to continue working on his game. He also will have all the time he needs to continue refining his jump shot without having to worry about class.

On his way out the door, Banton has provided a ringing endorsement for Fred Hoiberg on multiple occasions, including this interview below following a workout with the Indiana Pacers (see the 0:13 and 1:41 marks of the video).

Two of Nebraska’s biggest selling points on the recruiting trail are Hoiberg’s experience in the NBA as a player, coach and executive and his NBA-friendly offensive system. He already signed a top-20 recruiting class coming off back-to-back seven-win seasons. If he can start putting players into the league, starting with Banton, that recruiting pitch is only going to get stronger.

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