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Nebrasketball: Press Conference & First Practice Recap, Other News

Nebraska v Rutgers Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Basketball season is more or less officially underway this week as practices have begun. With that at the forefront of the team’s mind, we have a recap of the team’s press conference on Tuesday with Coach Hoiberg, along with players Yvan Ouedraogo and Dalano Banton. Some footage from the first practice yesterday follows, and finally a few other noteworthy news items relating to the team wrap it up at the bottom.

But first up, Happy Birthday wises are in order:

Coach Hoiberg

Coach Hoiberg started if off by noting the workouts so far have been impressive in terms of the commitment and competitiveness his players have shown. He’s had to occasionally tell guys to take some time off, and they’ve been working closely with UNL’s sports scientists to manage the player workloads this offseason.

Hoiberg said the Huskers did had had one positive COVID-19 case, but that case is no longer active. He is proud of how seriously everyone has been taking the coronavirus protocols and that the team hasn’t had to mass quarantine or shut anything down due to any outbreaks.

Hoiberg stated he is always concerned about how teams will handle adversity, but especially a new roster like Nebraska’s. He mentioned that the team had its first inter-squad scrimmage on Friday. It gave the players their first real taste of adversity they might face during the season with frustration, emotions, etc. Nebraska got Saturday through Tuesday off after the scrimmage. The team will return to work on Wednesday for the official start of season practices, and they will start practice by watching a thorough film review of the scrimmage to point out things for each player to work on.

On Ouedraogo: he’s been “phenomenal” in terms of his improvement this offseason. Noted the sophomore returned to Lincoln 25 pounds lighter than he was at the end of last season. He is now more explosive, finishes better at the rim, and has a better reading of situations on the court. A lot of those improvements came from the growth and experience he gained playing last season. Coach Hoiberg is “proud of Yvan” for making changes to his body to become a better player.

“The great thing about freshmen is they become sophomores.”

Coach Hoiberg said Thorir Thorbjarnarson was “Mr. Reliable” for UNL last year. He was always in the right spot and has a “high, innate basketball IQ.” Hoiberg further credited Thor for providing leadership through his experience this offseason.

“Anybody that can space the floor for our playmakers … we’re going to need those guys on the floor.”

Getting junior guard and Pitt transfer Trey McGowens waiver approved for immediate eligibility “absolutely will help us; there’s no doubt about that.” Nebraska approached offseason preparations as if McGowens would be eligible for the season, and he has hit the ground running as soon as the NCAA granted his waiver.

Coach Hoiberg said McGowens will have a “huge impact” for Nebraska on both ends of the floor. McGowens is a “tenacious defender,” and led ACC in steals last season. Hoiberg said the former four-star recruit is also versatile on the offensive end, and they’ve put a big emphasis on improving the proper fundamentals on his shot.

Nebraska’s starting lineup and bench rotation will play itself out in practice over the next 42 days before the first game. Hoiberg said that daily consistency will be as important of a factor as anything in determining the lineups. Thought Hoiberg also notes he has “an idea” of who his starters will be, but he also noted that it is a fluid situation. Hoiberg said his roster is a “diverse and unique group” that can play small ball just as easily as big depending on their matchup.

Hoiberg said his roster’s overall size and physicality is in a much better spot than it was last year. This is in part thanks to a more experienced Ouedraogo, but also with the additions of guys like freshman Eduardo Andre, junior Derrick Walker, and junior Lat Mayen. Hoiberg said he’s seen great improvement with Andre so far. The freshman big is getting better every day he’s been on the court. Mayen is “maybe as consistent as anyone on our team,” especially on offense. “He’s one of those guys that when he shoots it, you’re surprised when it doesn’t go in.”

Hoiberg said his best description for Banton is he’s a playmaker, especially as a guy who is a 6-foot-9 point guard. Banton still needs to improve his ball security and cut down turnovers, but it’s common for many players at this point in the offseason. “The good thing about Dalano is he wants to be great, and he’s got a lot of potential in this game.”

Hoiberg said this group is better overall at shooting than last year’s team. He made note that guys like McGowens, Kobe Webster, Teddy Allen, Mayen, Shamiel Stevenson, and Thor are all quality three-point shooters.

The Big Ten Conference has yet to announce how many (if any) non-conference games members will be allowed to play this season. Hoiberg said Nebraska will approach the preseason practices as if they’ll open the season on Nov. 25, but they will also work with whatever the Big Ten gives them for a schedule.

Hoiberg said he has weekly phone calls with the Big Ten office. He feels good about the communication level, but he is still unsure as to when an announcement will be made on the league’s schedule. [Elsewhere it has been suggested that it will likely come in early November.]

He can’t talk much about the “The Golden Window” tournament in Lincoln. Nothing is official yet due to the unknowns of the Big Ten scheduling decision. However, Nebraska is preparing to start the season on Nov. 25 and preparing to play the full 27 games allotted by the NCAA.

Dalano Banton

Banton called last season when he was forcedto sit-out as a transfer a great learning experience. This was not only because it gave him time to improve as a player, but also allowed him to see all of the ups and downs that come throughout the course of a season in terms of adversity.

“You have to be able to fight through the fire when times get tough . . . A lot of times we were on our backs last year . . . If you get punched in the face, you’ve got to punch back.”

Banton said he definitely improved his jump shot over the past year. He worked a lot on the little things with form, and he focused on adding muscle. He said he also improved his defense with assistant coach Doc Sadler. Noted he especially improved his defensive knowledge and instincts.

Banton said this year feels different than last season for him personally. Mainly now he knows he will actually get to play in games. He admitted he “got down sometimes” last year because he knew he wasn’t playing. He’s more dialed in now because he has to be ready this season.

Particularly interesting of note, Banton said he was back in Toronto for most of the COVID-19 lockdown. He said things were especially strict in his home city, especially that most gyms were shut down and the Toronto officials even put locks over outdoor basketball hoops to prevent people from gathering.

Banton says he didn’t get back onto a real basketball court to shoot until a couple of weeks before his return to Lincoln. He had to work hard to knock some of the rust off and regain the strength he’d lost by not having access to a weight room.

Banton said that despite the fact he is working primarily as a point guard at Nebraska, Coach Hoiberg’s offense is fluid. As a result, everyone needs to have the capability to bring the ball up on a given possession.

As for the prospect of potentially playing in empty arenas, Banton said the idea is strange. He felt the love from Husker fans last season during games, even though he wasn’t playing. Banton said he understands the precautions being taken in the name of safety, however, and that Coach Hoiberg has already been preparing the team to play without fans.


Ouedraogo said “it was a tough summer for me” being back home in France during the COVID shutdown. However, he made the most of it by getting as much work in as he possibly could. Ouedraogo did workouts as early as 5 a.m. to be sure he was able to continue his development.

Ouedraogo said that it was around the start of Big Ten play last season when he realized he needed to reshape his body to compete. He accepted the challenge that he needed to make sacrifices this summer and he put in a lot of work. He says he is already seeing the gains from his sacrifices as he is preparing for his sophomore season.

Ouedraogo says the Huskers needs to move on from last year, but they that they also can’t forget what happened. The Huskers have been using last season as “fuel” and are determined to make sure what went wrong then won’t happen this season. Ouedraogo sys the whole team is buying in right now. Every day each player is giving maximum effort.

Additionlly, Ouedraogo says he believes having more big bodies on the roster will help him a lot. Guys like Walker and Andre will provide more post depth and in practice make each other better.

Finally, Ouedraogo stated improving his shot was a big point of emphasis this offseason, especially his free throws. He changed up his routine and his hand position on the ball. He is still working on it every day. Ouedraogo said each day after practice he tries to make 100 free throws.

First Practice Highlights

News Updates

The Huskers are looking like they will play three games in the MTE in Lincoln, and continue to host teams in the bubble afterwards for a total of four or five games. With the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, that leaves just one or two games left for the non-conference. Frankly, Nebraska might as well play Creighton anyways for one of the games. Do you agree?

Similar to spring sports last season and fall sports this year, all winter sport athletes will receive an automatic extra year of eligibility. Whereas athletes were previously eligible to complete four seasons of competition in five years, they now have six years to complete five.

No surprise that the NCAA left out the minor detail on what, if any, changes will be allowed for the scholarship limits on rosters as a result of extra eligibility. The scholarship cap was not increased for spring or fall sports teams, however. So if previous models for eligibility are followed, players who hold over on the roster would directly impact future recruits ability to join teams on scholarship

The DI Council also moved one step closer to adopting a rule that would allow all Division I athletes in all sports to transfer to a new school and compete immediately without having to sit out for a season. Presently, athletes in football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball, and men’s hockey are required to sit out for a season when they transfer to a new school. This would have a huge impact for programs like Nebraska under Coach Hoiberg, which rely heavily on transfers.