Husker Hoops 2008-09 Season Preview Day Two: The Players

In the third season under Doc Sadler, Husker Basketball will once again be sporting a new look.  Only one senior left the program, but that one player was Aleks Maric, the first All-Big XII selection for the Huskers in nearly a decade.  Backup center Shang Ping (whose performance and playing time both steadily faded as the season went on) has transferred to a Division II school, and guard J.R. Strowbridge transferred closer to home.

The Huskers had hoped to add some impact players in the incoming class, but 6-11 German center Christopher Niemann was ruled ineligible for this season by the NCAA because his club team paid some of its players (but not him) beyond living expenses.  6-5 combo guard Roburt Sallie was denied eligibility by the Big XII because of an oversight when he first tried to come to NU in 2006, and he found himself a home with last year's national runner-up Memphis Grizzlies.  A late big man was almost added with 7-foot Puerto Rican Jorge Diaz, but a computer glitch with his TOEFL prevented him from getting admitted for the fall (though he may find his way back in December).

That's not to say there aren't new faces.  There's five, in fact.  One true freshman -- former Indiana recruit, 6-4 guard Eshaunte "Bear" Jones, and four redshirts who Doc opted to sit out last year so that they could contribute long-term: 6-0 G Brandon Richardson, 6-7 F Alonzo Edwards, 6-6 G Toney McCray, and 6-9 F Alex Chapman (who is a sophomore, after 1 year of junior college ball).  Each of them should contribute this year.

Returning players

Guards

If Nebraska is going to succeed this year, it will be based on the play of its guards.  The Huskers don't have a lot of standout guards, but they are very, very deep.

Cookie Miller(6.1 ppg, 3.6 assists, 1.9 steals), a 5-7 sophomore, will likely return as the Huskers' starting point guard.  Cookie was 6th in the Big XII in assists last year and 4th in steals, the highest marks by a freshman in either category (he is second in both amongst returning players).  Cookie will need to improve on his shooting from last year, especially from beyond the arc, where he was 16-65 last season.

Ryan Anderson (8.4 ppg, 5.3 rebounds, 1.4 steals), a 6-4 junior, will likely be one of the shooting guards that start for the Huskers.  A two-year starter, Anderson is one of the most complete defensive players on the team (10th in the conference in steals) and the most prolific 3-point shooter (136 attempts).  Ryan has been forced to play power forward because of the Huskers' size problems, but has fared well defending larger players.

Steve Harley (9.1 ppg), a 5-11 senior, emerged in the latter part of the season as a consistent scoring threat, with his ability to drive to the basket and create off the dribble, after struggling early on.  If he can continue to produce the way he did late in Big XII play, he should be a valuable tool for the Huskers.  He was the most consistent shooter on the team besides Maric, making 40.8% of his 3-pointers.

Ade Dagunduro (8.9 ppg, 3.6 rebounds), a 6-5 senior, was another solid contributor from last year's team, and one of the better defensive stoppers on the team.  Ade had a tendency to foul in bunches last year, and led the team in violations.  Besides Maric, Ade was the best 2-point shooter on the team.

Paul Velander (4.2 ppg, .818 FT%), a 6-2 senior walk-on, has been the Huskers' most consistent 3-point shooter over the last three years, although his playing time has diminished as other guards have joined the team.  He will likely continue to see time as a shooter coming off the bench.

Sek Henry (5.9 ppg, 3.5 rebounds), a 6-3 junior, is looking to be one of the most improved players this year, if his summer league performance is anything to judge by.  Sek has always been a hard worker, and hit several clutch shots down the stretch.  If he can develop some consistency, he has a chance to earn a lot of playing time.

Forwards

Chris Balham (2.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg), a 6-8 junior, has incredible athletic ability, but injuries and bizarre numbness in his legs have limited his playing time and effectiveness in his two years in Lincoln.  Balham figures to be the starting center so long as his legs hold up.  He has been effective in limited action, but only time will tell if he can put in extended minutes.

Newcomers

Eshaunte "Bear" Jones (Hargrove (Va.) Military Academy) -- Bear averaged 16 ppg and 10 rebounds at prep school, and an astonishing 28 ppg as a senior in high school.  Said Doc on Jones: “The one thing he can do is score, and you can never have too many of those guys.”

Alex Chapman (Sheridan (Wyo.) College) -- Alex averaged 9.8 ppg and 6.8 rebounds in his one season of junior college.  He has suffered some knee injuries, and will miss the beginning of practice following surgery.

Toney McCray (Ft. Bend (Tex.) Elkins) -- Toney averaged 16 points, 6 boards, and 2.5 assists a game as a senior in high school, and looks to be a solid swing player, though he'll likely play some forward for the undersized Huskers.  Said Doc on McCray: "[H]e’s probably the most talented kid we’ve got on our team. … If he gets some of Brandon [Richardson]’s toughness, Toney McCray could be great.”

Brandon Richardson (Hawthorne (Los Angeles, CA) HS) -- A first-team All-California and a Nike All-American, Brandon averaged over 20 points and 7 rebounds as a senior.  Says Doc on Richardson: “Brandon Richardson is probably as competitive and mentally tough a player as anybody I’ve ever coached. He may not always make the play, but I can promise you you’re going to leaving knowing he gave everything he had.”

Alonzo Edwards (Klein Forest (Houston, TX) HS) -- A power forward prospect who averaged 16 points and 10 boards as a high school senior, Alonzo will likely give the Huskers some depth in the post.  He may not be playing up to his potential yet, and his emergence will be key for the Huskers.

Six walk-ons are also on the roster for the Huskers, but will probably not see extended playing time: Nick Krenk (6-0 Sr G), Matt Karn (6-3 Jr G), Ross Ferrarini (6-2 Fr G), Andrew Wicklund (6-5 So G), Ben Nelson (6-8 Jr F), and Cole Salomon (6-4 Jr G).

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