Nebraska men’s basketball begins its season on Nov. 25 in the Golden Window Classic. The tournament, which has been speculated for over a month, is being hosted in Lincoln at Pinnacle Bank Arena and Bob Devaney Sports Center.
Other than that, all that is known about the Huskers’ schedule right now is that they will play Georgia Tech on Dec. 9 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Big Ten has yet to release its conference schedule, and Nebraska’s other nonconference opponents are unknown as of now.
Adding to the uncertainty of this season, Nebraska has undergone a significant roster overhaul for the second time in two years. Just three contributors from last season remain, and they will be joined by nine transfers, two true freshmen and two redshirt players.
One trend to monitor in men’s basketball head coach Fred Hoiberg’s second roster at Nebraska is the influx of international players. Seven of the thirteen scholarship players set to play this season were born overseas. Due to the impact of COVID, this season will not count toward eligibility, so it will be a chance to develop depth and hopefully lead to more continuity in 2021-22.
Senior guard Thorir Thorbjarnarson, a 6-foot-6 native of Iceland, is the most familiar player on the team. He started 24 of Nebraska’s 32 games last year and averaged 8.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. He was the top shooter on the roster last year, hitting 37% of his 3-pointers, but the Huskers will have more deep threats this year amongst the influx of transfers.
Yvan Ouedraogo is a 6-foot-9, 245-pound sophomore forward from France. He started 30 of Nebraska’s 32 games last year and contributed 5.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Ouedraogo was the Huskers’ sole post player last year and took his lumps as a 17-year-old in the rugged Big Ten. He comes into this season with more experience and more help.
Nebraska also looked to welcome back sophomore forward Akol Arop, but it was announced on Thursday that he would miss the 2020-21 season due to undergoing knee surgery. The 2018-19 Nebraska Gatorade Player of the Year, an award given to the best high school basketball player in Nebraska, played sparingly as a freshman and will hopefully return to full strength in 2021-22.
The other returners are walk-on redshirt freshman guard Jace Piatkowski and forward Bret Porter of Elkhorn South and Millard North, respectively. Neither saw the court last season and may not play much this season, but were local high school standouts.
The majority of Nebraska’s rotation will be made up of transfers for the second consecutive year. The Huskers have three players who were with the program last season after transferring in 2019 and are finally eligible to play this year.
Sophomore guard Dalano Banton, a 6-foot-9 point guard and former four-star recruit, transferred to Nebraska in May 2019. The Canadian international came by way of Western Kentucky where he averaged 3.4 points, 3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game off the bench. Banton is more of a passer than a scorer and will be able to contribute on defense against bigger opponents and on the boards. He’s a nifty passer and ball handler who has gained a year of experience with the program last year and epitomizes what Hoiberg wants to do with his largely positionless system.
Junior guard Shamiel Stevenson was next, transferring to Nebraska a few days after Banton. He started his collegiate career at Pittsburgh, appearing in 32 games as a freshman and averaging 8.5 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. Stevenson transferred to Nevada just four games into his sophomore season but transferred to Nebraska before playing a game for the Wolf Pack. The Canadian is an explosive 6-foot-6, 245-pound wing player that should be able to guard multiple positions.
The final sit-out transfer from the spring of 2019 is Derrick Walker. The 6-foot-8, 230-pound Walker provides much-needed size inside. Walker played in 64 games over two seasons for Tennessee, averaging 1.4 points and 1.7 rebounds per game.
Graduate transfer guard Kobe Webster will likely be looked to as one of the leaders of this team. Webster led Western Illinois in scoring and assists for all three of his seasons there and was twice named second team All-Summit League. He averaged 16.7 points, 4 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game over the last three years.
Junior forward Lat Mayen is a 6-foot-9 swiss army knife that looks to shine in Arop’s absence as a versatile athlete on both ends of the floor. Mayen not only provides a long interior defensive presence but also figures to be one of the best shooters on the team. The junior played a season at TCU, appearing in about half of their games, then transferred to Chipola College, a junior college in Florida.
Junior guard Teddy Allen is a name many Husker fans should be familiar with, as the Arizona native played two seasons at Boys Town High School. The 2016-17 Nebraska Gatorade Player of the Year spent his freshman season at West Virginia, where he averaged 7 points per game off the bench. Allen left Morgantown due to a conflict of interests and left Wichita State a year later.
He spent last season at Western Nebraska Community College, where he led the NJCAA in scoring with 31.4 points per game, the most any junior college player has averaged since 2014. Allen, who is also a proven rebounder, will likely serve as a go-to scorer for the Huskers this season.
Junior guard Trey McGowens, another Pitt transfer, possesses as much high-level experience as anyone on the roster. On Oct. 5, the junior received a waiver granting him immediate eligibility after he transferred on April 4, 2020. McGowens is a former four-star and top 100 recruit who started nearly every game in two seasons at Pittsburgh. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 11.6 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game in his first two seasons. His 1.9 steals per game should make him a perfect fit for Hoiberg’s transition-heavy attack.
Nebraska also added walk-on transfer Chris McGraw from Ohio and sharpshooter Trevor Lakes from Division II University of Indianapolis. Lakes, who will have to sit out this season, averaged 15.7 points and 6.2 rebounds per game while shooting 40% on 8.5 3-pointers per game.
True freshman center Eduardo Andre, born in London, England, comes to Nebraska by way of a prep school in Arizona. The 6-foot-10 three-star recruit will be the tallest player on the roster, adding to the post depth for the Huskers, something they severely lacked last season.
Freshman guard Elijah Wood, another three-star recruit, is a combo guard from Potomac, Maryland, who picked Nebraska over a plethora of other high level offers, many of which he received early in his high school career. Wood may need some time to adjust to the Division I level before receiving significant playing time, but he has immense upside.
Hoiberg enters his second season with a roster composed of few returners and an abundance of transfers, the same formula he used at Iowa State. However, there is plenty of reason to believe the Huskers will be improved from last season, and that starts with the sheer talent on this season’s roster.
Banton and McGowens should see significant minutes in the backcourt handling the ball as should Webster. Allen and Stevenson will likely see a lot of playing time on the wings along with returnee Thorbjarnarson. In the post, the Huskers have Ouedraogo back along with Mayen who will serve as a different kind of big man, well-suited to Hoiberg’s positionless fast-paced, free-flowing style.
There are a lot of combinations Hoiberg could use for a starting lineup but expect those eight to all receive a significant chunk of the minutes. Walker should also figure into the post rotation, and the youngsters, Andre and Wood offer added depth.
This is a different team from last season and one more curated to Hoiberg’s style. With so many new faces and in such an uncertain year, there should be no shortage of excitement in Nebraska’s 2020-21 men’s basketball season.
6-9, 205 lbs.
6-4, 190 lbs.
6-5, 225 lbs.
Western Nebraska CC/West Virginia
6-6, 200 lbs.
6-9, 245 lbs.
6-0, 170 lbs.
6-6, 245 lbs.
6-9, 205 lbs.
6-8, 230 lbs.
6-10, 230 lbs.
6-5, 175 lbs.
6-3, 185 lbs.
6-5, 230 lbs.
6-0, 170 lbs.
6-5, 205 lbs.
6-7, 215 lbs.
*Out for season with injury
**Ineligible to play this season