Nebraska men’s basketball lost three key parts to its offense and defense during this past offseason. Two of the three players, Tim Miles anticipated. One of the three players, he didn’t.
Nebraska lost guards Benny Parker and Shavon Shields as well as guard / forward Andrew White III. Miles started all three of them in the back court for most of the season. The exception was when Shavon Shields was injured for part of the season and missed some time.
Let’s take a look at each departure and its impact.
Parker became a reliable and consistent player in the back court. He started all 34 games of the 2015-2016 season. Coming in as a freshman in 2012-2013, he was not a consistent three-point shooter and instead, he shot mostly in the paint. By his senior season, he became a consistent threat all across the floor. He finished his senior season shooting 38.5% from the floor and 31.6% from beyond the arc.
Although Parker didn’t score often, he was a player Miles needed on the floor for his on-ball defending.
Senior guard Tai Webster looks to be the candidate to replace Parker on the floor. Although Webster hasn’t scored as well in the past years, this year he will look to take a bigger role on both ends of the ball. It’s likely he’ll be starting in the back court this year.
Shields capped his senior year off with an incredible season. He was the leader of the Cornhuskers on both sides of the floor. Outside of his concussion that kept him out for four games, he was a versatile player for Tim Miles and his team. Shields was always a threat offensively from the paint and beyond the arc. He shot 47% from the paint and 36% from beyond the arc.
Shields finished his career fifth in all-time points at Nebraska with 1,630. He also finished in the top ten with field goals made, field goals attempted, free throws made, free throws attempted and second in Nebraska history with 112 starts.
Not only did he defend the well, but he was also good at getting near the basket to collect rebounds. He averaged 5.1 rebounds per game in the 2015-2016 season.
Overall, in his Nebraska career, he finished with 46% shooting in the paint and 30% shooting from beyond the arc. His scoring ability will be missed by Nebraska next year.
Anton Gill, a transfer from The University of Louisville looks like the candidate to replace Shields in the back court. He sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, but he’s a guard that will look to take the scoring and defending presence Shields had on the floor.
Andrew White III
This was the most surprising and unexpected loss for Nebraska. Redshirt senior Andrew White initially declared for the NBA Draft, but the decided to forgo the draft to play one more year of college basketball.
Nebraska fans assumed when he bowed out of the draft, that he would be spending his redshirt senior year in Lincoln, Nebraska, leading the Cornhuskers. Over the summer, however, he declared he was leaving Nebraska and he has now decided he will spend his final year of college eligibility at Syracuse.
This is perhaps the biggest loss for Nebraska. Not just for his scoring output or his defense, because those were both tremendous, but simply because it was unexpected. Miles lost two key members of his back court at the end of the season. Andrew White was the third key piece that was expected to lead the team in the 2016-2017 season.
Without White there are suddenly quite a few question marks early on. White’s decision was last minute and Miles was unable to prepare for it in the way he would have liked to. His ability to play the forward or guard position, shoot well, and defend well made him one of Nebraska’s best two-way players.
Depending on if Miles will want two or three guards on the floor, Sophomore forward Michael Jacobson and Sophomore guard Glynn Watson Jr. are likely candidates to take the bulk of White’s minutes. Jacobson is better on the wing, but Watson Jr. is a great defender in the back court. Both players can shoot well, so it is probable that they’ll be splitting time on the floor.
So heading into 2016-17 the Cornhuskers have essentially lost their entire starting back court and that’s clearly problematic. This year, a lot of underclassmen will have to step up to fill the shoes of Parker, Shields and White III.