Wilhelm Breidenbach

Nebraska men’s basketball landed a commitment from one of the most highly-ranked recruits in program history earlier this month. 

Wilhelm Breidenbach, a 6-foot-9 center from Santa Ana, California, committed to Nebraska on Oct. 1. Breidenbach is ranked by ESPN as the 53rd-best player in the 2021 recruiting class. Breidenbach received several other high-major offers, most notably from USC, Vanderbilt and California. 

“I think for me, it was just the all-around environment at Nebraska,” Breidenbach said. “Just going somewhere so far from home, a big part of it is kind of a family aspect within the program. And obviously Coach Hoiberg and the whole staff have been around basketball and have been to places where I ultimately want to take it.”

Breidenbach averaged 12.2 points per game and 8.0 rebounds per game over the last two seasons for national powerhouse Mater Dei High School, located in Breidenbach’s hometown of Santa Ana. In 38 years under head coach Gary McKnight, Mater Dei has won one national championship and over 30 league championships.

He said that Breidenbach’s size will help him succeed at Nebraska.

“He [Wilhelm] is just a tough kid, not physically bulky, but can play physically. So I think he’ll fit in well in the Big Ten,” McKnight said.

McKnight also holds the all-time wins record for a California high school basketball coach with 1,161 victories. He has won 91% of his games and 11 state championships at the highest level of high school basketball in California. 

“I’ve coached LeRon Ellis who went to Syracuse and the NBA, the Wear brothers who went to UNC and UCLA, and recently Stanley Johnson [a 2015 NBA lottery pick],” McKnight said. “We’ve been fortunate. Wilhelm started here since he was a freshman, so I think that tells you something.”

McKnight said Breidenbach handled the recruiting process himself and really liked Nebraska’s coaches and the way they talked to him. Breidenbach said he has talked to Coach Hoiberg about his fit on the team.

“We've watched a little bit of film before, and I think we just feel like I fit right into his system,” Breidenbach said. “Kind of a free-flowing, fast-paced offense. And I think I’ll just fit in there really well with everybody else.”

Breidenbach will have high expectations for his senior season from Nebraska and Mater Dei fans alike. Five of his teammates from last year are committed to Division I schools including ESPN five-star Devin Askew, who is graduating early to play at Kentucky this year. 

“There's a lot of people around me who have invested a lot into me playing basketball,” Breidenbach said. “So I think ultimately, I motivate myself a lot to just kind of keep pushing and pushing through whatever adversity there is.”

Breidenbach said he hopes to grow as a player during his time with Nebraska basketball and to be able to pursue a professional basketball career if all goes well. He said that when he’s done playing, he is interested in doing something related to kinesiology.

“I think I'm just excited to compete and get an education,” Breidenbach said. “I think obviously playing basketball in Nebraska will be really exciting. All the fans, they're really great. So I think I'm just most excited to get out there and just get started.”

Breidenbach is the second commit in Nebraska’s 2021 recruiting class. Japan native Keisei Tominaga, a 6-foot-1 sharpshooter and JUCO transfer from Ranger College in Texas, committed to Nebraska last November. Before Breidenbach joins the Huskers, he will compete for Mater Dei for one last season. California plans to start high school basketball in March and go through early June.

“The ultimate goal is always to win and always to compete for a state championship,” Breidenbach said. “So I think it's just more of the same. This year is just, win.”

sports@dailynebraskan.com