The Nebraska basketball team will enter the 2015-16 season with plenty of question marks. Coming off a disappointing 13-18 season, the Cornhuskers are losing six of last season’s top nine players, including wing Terran Petteway and center/forward Walter Pitchford. Small forward Shavon Shields appears ready to be the team’s new go-to guy, but beyond him Nebraska’s lineup is in flux.
Still, the Cornhuskers have a host of talented new players arriving on campus. Kansas transfer Andrew White will finally have the chance to showcase himself, and five new scholarship freshmen, including four-star recruits Ed Morrow and Glynn Watson, will also be added to the mix. With so many departures and fresh faces head coach Tim Miles will certainly have his work cut out finding combinations that work. Let’s take a look at each new guy and see who has the best chance to contribute right away.
Three years ago, White arrived at Kansas as a highly touted wing recruit with great size, athleticism and a reliable 3-pointer. So what happened? For starters, he found himself stuck behind Ben McLemore and then Andrew Wiggins on the depth chart. But he also never lived up to his billing as a shooter, hitting just 29.5 percent of his shots from behind the arc and averaging 2.3 points per game in two seasons. Now eligible after sitting last season out, White will have the opportunity to replace Petteway. It’s a tough task to ask, but at 6'7" and 220 pounds, White could form a potent wing combo with Shields if he can rediscover his shooting touch. White’s biggest competition for a starting spot is probably Tai Webster, but the 6'4" junior is more of a combo guard than a true wing like White. It remains to be seen how Miles constructs the lineup, but if he wants a similar starting five to last season he’ll likely start White and continue to bring Webster off the bench.
Having lost big men Pitchford, Moses Abraham, David Rivers and Leslee Smith, Nebraska’s frontcourt is a complete unknown. The one freshman with the best chance to play right away is four-star recruit Ed Morrow. At 6'7" and 215 pounds, Morrow isn’t huge but is a hyper-athletic competitor who can defend and is lethal in transition. He needs to seriously work on his shooting, but the Chicago native looks like the most dynamic forward in a group that includes sophomores Nick Fuller and Jake Hammond, who both played sparingly last year. If Miles goes with a traditional lineup, the 6'10" Hammond will probably play the five with Fuller (also 6'7") and Morrow competing for the four. Fuller has the experience, but expect Morrow to at least play equal time with him if he doesn’t beat him out.
A 6'0", 160 pound point guard, Watson is another four-star player who will compete for minutes at the one with senior Benny Parker, fellow recruit Bakari Evelyn and Webster. Parker started most of last season, but while he’s a smart player and tough defender who led the team in steals, he’s undersized at 5'9" and isn’t much of a playmaker (4.2 points, 1.7 assists last seasons). Watson isn’t huge himself, and Miles might be afraid to start a freshman over a senior, but the Illinois native is lightning quick and has a nose for the basket. He’s still raw, but he’s more of a true point guard than either Evelyn or Webster, who could both be used at the two. I’d guess Parker will start off the bat, but don’t be surprised if Watson gets plenty of minutes.
Another new power forward who will throw his hat into the Cornhusker’s mystery of a frontcourt, Jacobson is a physical player who will probably play behind Morrow and Fuller. At 6'8" and 220 pounds, Jacobson is a much better shooter than Morrow, but he lacks the athleticism of his new teammate. It remains to be seen how the minutes shake out with this group, but Jacobson will come off the bench if he does get time.
As mentioned above, Evelyn is more of a combo guard like Webster than a true point guard. It remains to be seen exactly how he’ll be used, but it'll be in a bench role. The 6'2", 175 pound Evelyn is touted as a good passer with a respectable jumper, but he’ll probably spend most of next season developing.
A 6'7", 210 pound forward from Australia, McVeigh can shoot and is supposedly more of a wing than a post player. That puts him behind Shields and White, arguably the two best scorers on the Cornhuskers. He can’t be completely ruled out with so much of Nebraska’s lineup undetermined, but he’s another guy who will start off on the bench.
Josh Lanasa, Johnny Trueblood
These two players are walk-ons who have been added to Nebraska’s roster but likely will not see much playing time. Lanasa is a 6'6" forward, Trueblood a 6'4" guard.
Obviously there’s a lot going on here, but White has the best chance to start while Morrow and Watson should contribute right away as well. It’s unclear about the rest of the freshmen, but don’t be surprised if Jacobson, Evelyn and McVeigh get chances during the non-conference schedule.