Photo by John S. Peterson
Nebraska Basketball

A Dynamic Backcourt Already Brewing at Nebraska?

April 18, 2019
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With Nebraska basketball talk of late being completely dominated by transfers and who’s joining Fred Hoiberg’s first Husker team, it’s easy to overlook the kids currently on the roster. Which, fair, some are leaving — sophomore wing Nana Akenten announced his intent to transfer on Wednesday, several weeks after Thomas Allen Jr. revealed the same — but Nebraska might already have a serious one-two punch in its backcourt.

Dachon Burke essentially re-upped with the Huskers on April 10, putting to bed any fears he might leave after Tim Miles’ firing. Then, four days later, Jervay Green reaffirmed his Nebraska commitment after a seal-the-deal meeting with Hoiberg. 

“One of the most dynamic backcourts in the country, they have a shot at being,” said Nebraska assistant coach Armon Gates. 

Green, of course, is the No. 3 JUCO prospect in the country. He’s a combo-guard standing at 6-foot-3 who led Western Nebraska Community College to a 24-8 record last season. He averaged 23.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.7 steals a game as a sophomore while shooting 54.7 percent from the field and 39 percent from beyond the arc. 

Gates called it a “huge coup” that Nebraska was able to keep Green committed. When the head coaching move was made, other programs started sniffing. Some got a little beyond just sniffing. Nebraska was nervous. But Green is in.

“You’ll see he has an NBA-ready body, can really shoot the ball, can handle the ball and he’s a great kid, he’ll be a great teammate,” Gates said. “For our program to continue to have the success that it’s had, I think he’s a huge part of it.”

He could be the one to lead Hoiberg’s offensive renaissance for the next two years.

“We’re glad that we can continue on with his commitment and make him a focal point of what we’re trying to do and build here,” said assistant coach Matt Abdelmassih.

Abdelmassih, who worked with Hoiberg at Iowa State and is widely regarded as one of the top recruiters in basketball, gave props to Miles before raving about the type of person Green is.

“You’ve got to give all the credit to the previous staff and Coach Miles, they’re the ones that got him committed to this school,” he said. “It also speaks volumes of Jervay and the people in his family to allow us the opportunity to try and get him to stay committed. He didn’t have to, you see it all across the country, a lot of kids don’t. He did, and that speaks to his passion and love that he has for this university and program.”

Nebraska is set to host JUCO guard Cam Mack — another combo guard who put up 19.1 points, 7.5 assists, 5.7 boards and 2.3 steals a night last season — so things could get even better in the Husker backcourt soon, but don’t forget about Burke in all this. 

A junior, Burke sat out 2018 after a transfer from Robert Morris. Before that, he averaged 17.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.1 steals per game as a sophomore for the Colonials in 2017. He led the Northeast Conference in steals and finished fourth in scoring. 

It caught Abdelmassih’s attention.

When Burke was going through the transfer process, Abdelmassih was working hard to get him to St. John’s. He even did an in-home with Burke as the two built up a strong connection. When Abdelmassih agreed to come to Nebraska, he texted Burke to let him know.

He was “ecstatic.”

“I love him,” Abdelmassih said. “The competitiveness that he brings to the table is exactly what you need, to me, in this conference. The toughness. Where he’s from exudes nothing but toughness. I know Coach [Hoiberg] is going to work really hard to fine-tune his offensive side but really excited about having him.”

More importantly, the Husker coaching staff is really excited about pairing him with Green. Gates has watched film of the way Hoiberg meshed DeAndre Kane’s game with Monte Morris’ during the 2013-14 season. 

Morris was a freshman, Kane a senior transfer from Marshall. During that lone season together, Kane put up 17.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.9 assists while shooting 48 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3. Morris, in 17 games as a starter, added 7.4 points, 4.7 assists and 2.9 rebounds on 43 percent shooting from the floor and 47 percent shooting from deep. 

Both had the ability to work off each other and they did so well.

Burke has already been in the gym with Hoiberg. Gates said he’s excited about learning from a coach who has a proven track record of developing shooters. If there’s an area of Burke’s game that needs fine-tuning, it’s his jumper, but Green’s game compliments nicely in that regard. He can attack the rim and finish through contact, or he can shoot the leather off the basketball from the perimeter.

Either is more than comfortable handling, which allows either to play an off-ball floor-spacer role as a shooter and slasher.

“It’s extremely exciting to see the possibility of what those two guys can do under that same system,” Gates said. 

 
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