2013-14 Nebraska Preview: Can Young Studs Propel the Huskers to New Heights?

Shavon Shields, Nebraska's great Dane (boom nailed it) - USA TODAY Sports

The Cornhuskers look to their young talent in order to reach greener pastures.

Don't look now, but Tim Miles might have assembled the most underrated backcourt in the B1G. Between a senior leader, a promising Danish wing and an intriguing Kiwi freshman, the Huskers boast some real talent among their ranks at guard. If Nebrasketball starts posing some problems for your favorite team, a pretty penny says it's one of these guys doing the damage.

The Starters

Even though he's been suspended for the first two games of the season, Ray Gallegos should act as the senior leader every team pushing for the postseason needs in their lineup. He and now-graduated Dylan Talley formed quite the shooting duo last season, in that they were really proficient at taking shots. Together they averaged 25 shots a game, which is fine, but they only mustered up 25 combined points per game. Gallegos will have to improve on his 36% shooting to become that main scorer Nebraska needs, and diminishing his playing time might actually be the key - he played 93.7% of the available minutes last season, the third highest percentage in the nation.

Shavon Shields may be able to take that step if Gallegos isn't up to it. The sophomore had a fantastic debut season, coming on in a big way towards the back end of 2013 with 29 points in a win at Penn State and 19 and 13 rebounds against Michigan State. At 6'7", Shields is one of the more physically gifted guards in the B1G, and he knows how to put that size to good use - his free throw rate was 37.5, good for 21st in the conference. He also played for the Danish U-20 team that won the Nordic Championship this summer (no, for real, he did), so he has that going for him.

The final starter is somewhat of an unknown commodity, even by regular freshman standards. Tai Webster, a 6'4" freshman point guard from Auckland, New Zealand, is expected to come in and start at the one from day one. He was pursued by a number of ACC and SEC schools (and Saint Mary's, of course), and he's got a pedigree - his father, Tony, played at the University of Hawaii in the early 80s. He's a little turnover prone and sometimes suffers from an inconsistent stroke, but it sounds like Miles has faith in Webster to be a big contributor.

The Bench

Benny Parker, the 5'9" sophomore point guard, made 16 starts last season but with the introduction of Webster it doesn't seem as though he'll be graduating to full-time starter just yet. He's certainly in line for some minutes though, and Miles will hope he can bring his passing acumen in those minutes playing with players that could use some service. 4.0 assists per 40 minutes is nothing to scoff at, and Nebraska can take solace in the fact that they have some depth to rely on in the backcourt.


Freshman Nathan Hawkins should be a contributor upon his return from a stress fracture. The Texan reportedly had offers from Oklahoma St. and Kansas St., adding to a pretty respectable 2013 class for the Huskers. Walk-on Mike Peltz averaged 15 minutes a game last season, though it seems doubtful he'll be able to match that this season with the depth Miles has available.

Biggest Question: Can Webster be the facilitator this team needs?

Webster has more experience than the typical frosh, and by all accounts he's a great offensive player, but Nebraska has a gunner in Gallegos and a slasher in Shields - they need a guy who can create shots for them, and it would be extremely beneficial if that player was the New Zealand international (or Tall Black, if you prefer that nomenclature). Webster averaged 4.4 assists per game for the Waikato Pistons in NZ's National Basketball League, which would be a nice figure to match for Nebraska, but it's safe to say the NBL competition is probably a step down from the B1G.

Overall

In such a stacked conference, it's going to be tough for any of the B1G's projected bottom-feeders to find their footing. That makes the non-conference especially critical - teams have to find an identity and get that identity established before the meat of the season. That's what makes having a new point guard steering the ship such a daunting task for Miles. There are just a handful of B1G teams in a similar position, but fortunately for Nebraska, Webster might be the most talented of that new batch of showrunners. The backcourt support is there for him, so it's on him to produce - and if he can, don't surprised to see Big Red making some teams see red come January.

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