University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s finest pick-up basketball players warmed up inside the Bob Devaney Sports Center on Thursday night.
I’m talking about 30 6-foot-3-inch white guys wearing Jordan shorts past their knees, calf-high Nike socks and the occasional arm sleeve.
They dribbled around their backs and through their legs. They shot fadeaway jumpers and reverse layups. They hustled after the ball when it bounced off the rim, which happened more times than not.
They tried everything in their power to grab the Nebraska basketball coaches’ attention. These men had a dream. A dream to play Division I basketball for their school. They dreamt to play “Nebrasketball.”
Some players stood out more than others, so I thought they might have a shot at making it.
A kid with a black arm sleeve calmly drilled jumpers from behind the arc. A 6-foot-7-inch player seemed fluent in the paint, making hook shots with both hands. Another guy jumped up and dunked the ball without a running start.
Other than that, the talent in the Devaney Center that night seemed as bare as Nebraska cornfields after this summer’s drought.
The whistle blew. In walked Tim Miles with a Nebraska polo, slacks and his trademark smile.
After a corny speech on how he looked for players who gave effort, the players jogged to the baseline. The chaos began.
Under the instruction of Nebraska assistant coach Ben Johnson, the players formed five lines on the baseline. Johnson began to explain the concept of a five-man weave.
It’s one of the more basic basketball drills used to warm up before the more strenuous parts of practice. It involves passing the ball and then following behind the guy you pass it to. At the end of the court the last person to receive a pass shoots a layup. Then someone picks the ball up and starts the weave going in the other direction. It’s that simple.
For some reason though, this drill turned in to an absolute disaster. Balls flew everywhere. Layups ricocheted off the backboard. At times four players ran on the same side of the court.
No one knew what they were doing. If I were Miles, I would have stopped the tryout and sent everyone home.
The tryout continued though. Every painstaking drill ran as smoothly as the five-man weave.
I don’t know how many times Johnson had to stop the drill and re-explain something to a player. He’d blow the whistle and start the drill again. The same mistakes were made.
Then came the scrimmage part of the tryout, which wasn’t any better than a Campus Recreation Center pick-up game – a lot of missed layups, ball-hogging and diving on the floor.
I think the average number of passes per possession was one. Players attempted to drive into masses players. Trust me, no one at this tryout was talented enough to do make a shot while being triple-teamed.
Miles sat midway up the Devaney Center’s seats with his legs crossed with his hand on his chin most of the time, probably trying to decipher if anyone had any talent at all.
He announced at a Monday press conference that the Huskers would not be taking anyone from the tryout. He said the team’s needs did not fit the mold of the guys at the tryout.
“You have to look at what we have on the team already and what do these guys bring to the table,” Miles said. “If I don’t think a guy can come in and play for us in a short amount of time, then I’m not going to keep him.”
With so few players on scholarship, if there were a year to make it as a walk-on, this would be it. But Nebraska just doesn’t have the talent in the state right now.
Andrew Ward is a junior broadcasting major. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org