Hoiberg's Huskers Ready to Get Started as Basketball Practice Begins
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Plenty Unknown for Nebraska Basketball Until Season Opener

August 02, 2019

We’re about two months away from Opening Night with Husker Hoops, the first in-person look Husker fans will have of their new team. With this week’s news that Nebraska won’t be streaming the games during the upcoming Italy trip (Aug, 3-10), it looks like the fans will have to wait until then to truly see what Fred Hoiberg has cooking.

Shamus McKnight will provide recaps of the games and the HuskerVision and digital teams will produce some social content as well, but that’s not quite the same thing as getting to watch the team play.

Additionally, we learned this week that the Huskers will be without the services of Cam Mack, the highly-touted point guard from Salt Lake Community College.

We already knew Yvan Ouedraogo, the 6-foot-9 teenager from France, would not be playing in the game as he wraps up his time with the French National Team in the U18 European Championships. So Mack’s absence leaves the Huskers without two potential starters, neither of which were able to participate in the 10 pre-trip practices the NCAA allows (Ouedraogo because of his national team responsibilities and Mack because he was waiting on his final grades from Salt Lake before becoming eligible).

Without Ouedraogo, the Huskers are short on, well, size. They’ve got four players listed taller than 6-foot-6, and two of them weigh 200 pounds or less. It will be fascinating to see how Hoiberg handles that frontcourt. Do we see the tall but slight Matej Kavas playing some center? Does the shorter yet much more stour Shamiel Stevenson get big minutes at that spot? Is Kevin Cross (listed at 6-foot-8 and 240 pounds but closer to 6-foot-6) ready to hold his own in the post against grown men? How much does Tennessee transfer Derrick Walker, the only true post on the roster other than Ouedraogo, play?

The backcourt situation will be a little easier to sort out even without Mack, who will likely be the starting point guard as a sophomore when the season rolls around. I’d anticipate Nebraska’s other junior college transfer, Jervay Green, will slide over to the one. He’ll play more as a combo-guard next to Mack at Nebraska, but he played the point at Western Nebraska Community College and dished out better than five assists a game to go with his near-24-points-per-game average.

That leaves plenty of room for graduate transfer Haanif Cheatham (quickly emerging as a team leader) and junior Dachon Burke Jr. (one of the two players returning from last year’s team) to start in the backcourt alongside Green. I’ll have more on Burke soon.

Mack’s absence, and therefore the need for Green at point guard rather than at shooting guard, should create and opening for dynamic scoring guard Samari Curtis to make a name for himself before his career even truly begins at Nebraska. Curtis, the reigning Mr. Basketball in Ohio who averaged over 34 points per game as a senior, was singled out by both Burke and Cheatham when they spoke with the media last week as a guy who has stood out in team workouts up to that point.

We won’t actually get a chance to learn what Hoiberg’s rotations might look like come the winter, and we won’t get to see what any of the newcomers look like in Husker uniforms. But Hoiberg will still get a valuable opportunity to learn a lot about the players that are suiting up, and we’ll get a chance to see which of them can emerge as impact players, even if a box score is all we’ll have to go off of.

The Huskers look like arguably the biggest wildcard in the entire Big Ten based on the sheer scale of roster turnover orchestrated by Hoiberg and his staff, and now it appears as if the cloud of mystery hanging over the team will be there right up until the season-opener. Something tells me Hoiberg isn’t too terribly upset by that.

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