Julian Assibey joined the Nebraska women’s basketball staff just a few months ago, but his connections to the program’s head coach go back a few years.
The former Florida assistant coach met Amy Williams a few years ago in Dallas. Both had flown in for recruiting purposes, and were stuck waiting for a rental car shuttle. They struck up a conversation, starting a connection that eventually led to Assibey making the move to Lincoln.
“[Williams is] somebody I’ve respected for a long time,” Assibey said. “I’ve followed her career, we’ve gotten to know each other on the road recruiting, always been such a genuine person that you just almost naturally are drawn to somebody like that.”
Florida was perhaps equally as good of an opportunity for Assibey on paper. Both programs have made three consecutive postseason appearances, including reaching the NCAA Tournament in 2021-22. The SEC and Big Ten both got seven teams into the bracket this past season, and will each have two more quality teams join in the coming years.
Regardless, Assibey chose to take the assistant spot at Nebraska this offseason, which was opened up by Tom Goehle’s retirement. He praised current Florida head coach Kelly Rae Finley, who he worked with previously at Colorado, and said he wanted to help her continue to build the Gators up, but this chance was too good to pass on.
“When you get an opportunity like this, where it checks a lot of those boxes, it meets the family aspects of things. It meets the competitive level that we all have as coaches to compete at the highest level,” he said. “… It was a hard decision, but at the same time, it also made sense.”
Assibey’s accumulated over a decade of coaching experience in his career so far. After moving to California from Ghana, he grew up wanting to be a pediatrician, as the rest of his family was in the medical field. He played multiple sports, however, and his career passions shifted to that area.
He played basketball and ran track both in high school and at William Penn University in Iowa. He’d return there as an assistant coach in 2009-10, but not before starting his coaching career elsewhere. Assibey said he owes his career to from former Metro State Denver head coach Linda Lappe, who brought him on as an assistant in 2007.
“If she wouldn’t have given me that start, I don’t know what I’d be doing today,” he said. “So, she’s still a huge part of my career.”
In 2014, he reunited with Lappe for his first Power Five job, as she was Colorado’s head coach. Assibey spent a season as the video coordinator before returning to an assistant coach role.
Lappe stepped down after the 2015-16 season, so Assibey left as well, heading to Montana State as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. Here, he connected with a number of current Huskers over four years.
Nebraska strength coach Alex Jardine and athletic trainer Ben Huver served in similar roles with the Bobcats during that time. That’s added to the comfort Assibey has felt so far with the Huskers.
“The way they accept people in, the way they treat people, it’s been very easy to kind of just jump in and be who I am and be myself,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been here for years already, when it’s only been a couple of months.”
His impact has been seen already in recruiting. Nebraska’s lone transfer addition this offseason — Darian White — played four years at Montana State, the first year coming with Assibey, Jardine and Huver on staff. The assistant coach helped in her recruitment to the Bobcats.
“She’s an exciting kid to watch, she’s explosive, athletic, can really push the pace and it’s the style we want to play anyway, so she fit the mold of what we’re looking for,” Assibey said. “I’m excited for her to get an opportunity to showcase her skill set at this level.”
As for what Assibey will bring, he said building relationships is one of his biggest strengths. That shows in recruiting, but also in developing players throughout their careers.
“At the end of the day, people matter,” he said. “People want to be seen and people want to be heard. And I think one of the things I bring to the table is I allow people to be heard, people to be seen and then also try to get the best out of people.”
He also said his energy will show in-game, especially watching the team play defense. That passion for women’s basketball comes from who he’s been around — his grandmother, mother and wife are the “three most important people” in his life.
“When I get to see bright young, strong women in the game of basketball, and I can give them that energy, I can give them everything I’ve got, and I can help them foster some of those things, I mean, it’s a passion of mine,” he said. “So every day when I come to work, I feel like I owe them that, to be able to give them everything I’ve got every day, because that’s what I saw my mom do.”
Assibey is excited about the future, both for the team and the sport as a whole. He sees the fan support and media coverage of women’s sports growing, and the marketing of top players is helping that effort. For example, he said younger people being able to see Jaz Shelley’s success and numerous highlight reel plays builds support for Nebraska overall.
Of course, the aim of the coaching staff and players is to bring the team success, which will at least mean getting back to the NCAA Tournament. In the few months since being hired, Assibey has seen plenty of reasons for optimism.
“This team is going to be fun to watch. And I’m really excited to get them out on the floor and do what they do,” Assibey said. “And really, they enjoy being around each other. That’s one of the things I’ve loved about them so far is that you can tell they genuinely like each other and so makes it a lot easier to walk into the gym and be excited to get after it.”