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Nebrasketball: A History of Tim Miles’ Recruiting Classes

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Throughout Miles’ seven-year tenure at Nebraska, he has gotten some of the biggest prospects to ever come to Lincoln. What has it gotten him? A near .500 record.

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

115-113. That’s Tim Miles’ record at Nebraska since he was hired on March 24, 2012. Seven years later, and his time in Lincoln has come to an end. But just how average was Miles? Well, looking at the players he got to come to the Huskers, it looks like it may have been an under performance.

Miles got some of the most talented recruits and transfers this team has seen on the court, but was unable to capitalize on his players. Let’s take a year-by-year look on what transpired. The numbers listed are the composite class ratings and the national class rank.

Class of 2012: 0.8057 (72nd)

For the most part, the old guard of Doc Sadler got most of these guys, like Shavon Shields and Benny Parker. Those were two guys who played hard night in and night out. Shields would go on to be an All-Conference player and top-five scorer in Huskers history. Parker, who was often in Miles’ doghouse, would prove everyone wrong his final two years, where he played over 25 minutes a game.

Two guys that came after the Miles hire were Deverell Biggs and Sergej Vucetic. While the latter may not sound familiar beacause he enrolled late and left the team a year later, Biggs was a big get. He was the fourth-rated JUCO player in the country and would most likely step in a make some sort of impact. After all, just two years before joining the Huskers, he made his name in Nebraska by winning a state title for Omaha Central. Unfortunately, after a redshirt year and then up-and-down play, Biggs was dismissed from the team. He would go on to Texas Southern and play for them in the NCAA Tournament.

Class of 2013: 0.8797 (56th)

This was Miles first year where he gets all his own recruits, albeit he still was maybe a half-cycle behind. His four-man class consisted of three-stars Nick Fuller, Nathan Hawkins, and Tai Webster, and JUCO-transfer Leslee Smith, listed in order of rating. Fuller, who is the 16th-best recruit to come to Lincoln, lasted three years and played sparingly throughout his time. He eventually tansferred to South Dakota, where he averaged nine points a game for the CBI-bound Coyotes. If you can see a pattern Hawkins followed the steps of Vucetic, Biggs and Fuller, as he transferred from the Huskers. Hawkins only lasted a year before jumping to Texas-Arlington, where he became a starter by his senior season

Leslee Smith was the other way around. Originally at SMU for two years, he eventually jumped to the JUCO route and joined the Huskers as a a junior. He stayed here until he graduated and was a solid rotational big man for Miles. Webster is perhaps Miles’ greatest success story out of the last two classes (not including Shavon). The New Zealand prospect came to Nebraska as a three star and started all but two games as a true freshman. He came off the bench as a sophomore, but fought his way back into the starting lineup as a junior. By his senior season, Webster was averaging 17 points a game, along with four assists, five rebounds and over a steal. He became a fan-favorite and even got a few tryouts in the NBA.

Class of 2014: 0.8678 (95th)

After a class that got him Tai Webster and a few other highly-rated recruits, Miles disappointed in 2014 with only two signees, Jake Hammond and Tarin Smith. Hammond, the 20th highest-rated recruit in Huskers history, played for two years. He eventually left the program and landed at Division II Central Oklahoma, where he finished out his career as a two-year starter.

Smith played sparingly over his freshman year as well and even looked like a promising building block at time. Alas, it was a similar story. Smith transferred to Duquesne for two years, as a starter, then bench player. For his senior season, Smith went on to UConn, where he is currently a productive bench player for the Huskies. Lastly, Miles originally also had a commitment from Keanu Pinder, but he never enrolled. Following two years at a JUCO, Pinder played two seasons with the Arizona Wildcats.

Class of 2015: 0.9096 (27th)

This is where things started to change. Recruits started buying into Miles’ pitch for Nebraska and the Huskers were finally landing big names. Glynn Watson Jr. and Ed Morrow still rank as the first and third-best recruits to ever come here. The rest of the class, Michael Jacobson, Jack McVeigh, and Bakari Evelyn, were no slouches either. Let’s start with Morrow, though. He played in 30 games as a freshman and was poised to become a starter his sophomore year. As a big man who could shoot, this was finally some NBA-style size Nebraska desperately needed. Unfortunately, a disappointing sophomore campaign boiled over Morrow’s frustrations and he eventually transferred to Marquette, where he currently averages 15 minutes a game for a top-20 Golden Eagles squad.

Jacobson followed a similar path, but he started 56 of his 65 games in Lincoln, mostly due to his six-foot, nine-inch frame. He needed a change, however, and took his talents to Ames and joined Iowa State. He averages 12 points and six rebounds in his 31 starts for the tourney-bound Cyclones. Evelyn didn’t even last as long. He played 18 games as a freshman and bolted to Valparaiso, where he has become one of their top players.

Last, but certainly not least, we come to Glynn Watson Jr. If you want to know how much this kid has meant to Husker hoops the past four years, just re-watch that game against Iowa on Sunday. He refused to give up on his team, in his last game in Pinaccle Bank Arena on Senior Day. He’s the highest-rated player to come to Lincoln ever and has started 106 of the 129 games he has played in a Nebraska uniform. Sure, he has had ups and downs and people are frustrated that he seemingly didn’t get much better after his sophomore season, but that’s all nonsense. The kid has the work ethic and heart we haven’t seen out of many of these Miles era players. And that isn’t unnoticed.

Class of 2016: 0.8952 (55th)

After the hype of 2015, Miles brought in a much smaller class the next year, with only three signees, all three stars. Jeriah Horne followed the ‘stay for a year and leave’ trope that we have seen a lot. He is currently the sixth man for Tulsa as a sophomore. Jordy Tshimanga played the five spot for two years, before a ‘will he, won’t he?’ transfer decision was finally made. He is currently sitting out a year at Dayton.

The last prospect is perhaps the best NBA-body the Huskers have seen in a long time. Isaiah Roby is an athletic six-foot, eight-inch big man with the ability to shoot and handle the ball. While he hasn’t developed the killer instinct and ability to take over a game many have wished, he hasa shown glimpses of that, especially in the last few games this year. He’s the fifth-best recruit Nebraska has gotten and has gotten better with each year in Lincoln.

Class of 2017: 0.9149 (75th)

Two years removed from the best recruiting class in Nebraska history, 2017 sees the Huskers continuing their drop. While they did land Thomas Allen, the second-best prospect to sign with Nebraska, and Nana Akenten, the 12th-best, the only other player in the class was an unranked Thorir Thorbjarnarsson. Allen was solid as a freshman and even better in his sophomore year this season before his injury derailed his final five games. He will be one of the best players on the team next season, barring a move elsewhere.

Akenten blossomed as a bench-spark for the Huskers this season, including his 18-point game against Mississippi Valley State. Unfortunately, after Miles made some comments to the media as the season continued to nosedive, Akenten hinted at even more drama on Twitter. This week, it was announced his was suspended from the team indefinitely for violating team rules. It would not surprise me if he didn’t return to the Huskers. Lastly, we know now it was unjust for Thor to be unranked. He, too, has become a huge bench presence, as seen by his block on Iowa’s final shot in the season finale. He will be an integral player during a coach transition.

Class of 2018: 0.8651 (83rd)

This is the final class where we have seen some fruition on the court. The three-man, three-star class of Brady Heiman, Amir Harris, and Karrington Davis have all had different freshman seasons. Starting with Davis, his first campaign as a Husker was cut short with an Achilles injury. He also missed most of his senior season at a prep school in Florida with a hip injury. He is a long wing that would have been a nice bench player had he stayed healthy.

The other two guys from 2018 have been rotation players all season long. Heiman has played in 27 games this year as one of the lone big men that can come off the bench. Harris is a combo guard who did not play much to start the season, but has since come into his own as one of the top six or seven rotation players for the Huskers. On Sunday against Iowa particularly, Harris had eight points and ten rebounds, along with the game-winning layup. He looks to have a bright future with Nebraska, regardless of coach.

Class of 2019: 0.8765 (66th)

This is where we can only judge players based on their ranking, as they have yet to join the Huskers officially. All three players committed are among the top 22 of recruits to ever come to Nebraska, with Mika Adams-Woods and Jervay Green being 13th and 15th, respectively. Adams-Woods is a three-star combo guard that will be able to step in behind Harris and Allen next season.

Green is a JUCO transfer from Western Nebraska C.C. He is the sixth-best JUCO player that is also a guard. He will most likely be able to contribute as a rotational shooting guard immediately. Lastly, Akol Arop, a lengthy small forward from Creighton prep, will provide good depth and size whenever he hits the court.

Class of 2020: 0.9107 (1st)

Okay, take that ranking with a grain of salt. Huskers are the only big-time program with two commits at this point, so it is skewed. That said, Lincoln North Star guard Donovan Williams looks like he will be a really good player if he sticks with his commitment for a year. D’Andre Davis is a thin small forward right now, but has some time to develop into his frame. Both are rated as three-stars and Williams is the fourth-best player in Nebraska recruiting history.

Transfers

We can’t talk about Miles’ recruiting without mentioning his innate ability to land star transfer players. Terran Petteway of Texas Tech, who was an 18 point per game scorer his two years in Lincoln, was also the leader of Nebraska’s last tourney team. Following his breakout sophomore year, he was a preseason All-American and John Wooden Award candidate. The Huskers did not perform as well and he left for the NBA.

At a similar time as Petteway, Walter Pitchford transferred from Florida and started for two years in Lincoln, but left for the NBA after disappointments and frustrations with the coaching and team performance. A year later, Kansas transfer Andrew White III joined a Huskers team with Shields, Webster and Watson. While he was a prolific scorer, the team again disappointed and White jumped to Syracuse and now plays in the NBA G-League.

Like with recruiting, there seems to be a trend with Miles incoming transfers, too. Their first year is often surprising, exciting and prolific, but when expectations rise, the team disappoints. We will see that again.

Anton Gill was next to join Nebraska, this time from Louisville. He was a solid three-point shooter and all-around player, but he never reached the levels of stardom Petteway and White saw. Gill’s senior year saw three others join the team: Duby Okeke, James Palmer Jr. and Isaac Copeland. Okeke was a football player playing hoops and was a fun spark plug off the bench last year. Copeland and Palmer turned into a dynamic duo that came out of nowhere to lead Nebraska to fourth in the Big Ten. Palmer specifically led the league in scoring and joined the likes of Petteway and White and big-time transfers who became prolific scorers.

Unfortunately, the trend continued. Okeke and Gill were gone, but Copeland and Palmer, along with Watson and Roby, had high expectations and were projected as high as a three or four seed in the tournament. After a great start to the year, the slide began, Copeland was hurt and Palmer was as inefficient as ever. More disappointments when expectations arise.

Next year, the Huskers will no longer have Copeland, Palmer, Watson and potentially Roby. They have some good players on the squad, but there’s someone most don’t know of: Dachon Burke. Burke is a transfer from Robert Morris and averaged 18 points a game as a sophomore last season. He will most likely be next in line for prolific scorers to pop out of nowhere in Lincoln. He will just have a different coach than the last few.