The Nebraska Cornhuskers’ 2016-17 season featured a roster with only one senior, but the program said good-bye to more than just their graduating senior come summertime. Unfortunately, three players opted to transfer, leveling a massive toll to Nebraska’s depth chart.
After a disappointing season that saw the Huskers finish 12th in the Big Ten, the future got bleaker and bleaker as their off-season rolled along. Can Tim Miles survive the storm and right the ship despite these four key departures? Let’s take a look.
- Tai Webster
The New Zealand native’s senior year was the culmination of his Husker career. He set career highs in points, rebounds, and assists per game while also logging nearly 35 minutes a game. He started in all 31 Husker contests and was the focal point in which the offense rotated around, clocking in with a team-leading 27.7% Usage Rate (including a Big Ten play Usage Rate at just under 29%).
His effectiveness earned him a 2nd Team All-Big Ten selection from the media and a 3rd Team All-Big Ten nod from the league’s coaches - very deserved accolades for the senior guard.
Webster went undrafted in this past summer’s NBA Draft and was last spotted in action with the Golden State Warriors as a member of their Summer League team, but was not offered a spot on the franchise’s roster. He signed with the Frankfurt, Germany based club, Fraport Skyliners, after his Summer League season.
Losing a player that made 83 career starts and provided veteran leadership is tough for any team to replace. Coach Miles will need to refocus the offensive flow and begin to rely on role players becoming the leaders. Reestablishing continuity in the locker room and bridging the experience gap will be up to Miles and junior guard, Glynn Watson Jr., who will fill Webster’s shoes and become a leader for the team.
- Ed Morrow
After two seasons in Lincoln, Ed Morrow decided to inject a change of scenery into his collegiate career and enroll at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The former Simeon High School standout could never get into a groove while playing for the Huskers, tabulating 19 starts in his two years and displaying a solid rebounding presence (7.5 per game).
Morrow grew frustrated with the rotations he found himself in. He cited his role within the lineup and needing a better opportunity to maximize his potential as reasons for his transfer.
Losing a reliable rebounding presence puts more pressure on sophomore big man, Jordy Tshimanga, to fill the void. Morrow’s minutes will be gobbled up by less seasoned players which won’t have an immediate pay off, but the underclassmen will have more opportunities for growth and learn from their mistakes; which will make the Husker front court stronger a couple seasons from now.
- Michael Jacobson
Another Husker from the 2015 recruiting class decided to transfer after two years at Nebraska. Michael Jacobson started all 31 games for the Huskers this past season, but still found himself dissatisfied with the Nebrasketball experience.
Jacobson averaged six points and six rebounds a game while averaging 24 minutes a game. The Waukee, Iowa native will be playing closer to home at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, where he will play under third year head coach, Steve Prohm.
Like Morrow, Jacobson’s departure means more front court minutes to be had. On top of younger guys seeing more action than they would have, incoming front court transfers will act as a stop gap for too much underclassmen inexperience. Georgetown transfer, Isaac Copeland, and graduate transfer out of Winthrop, Duby Okeke, will be thrust into the front court rotation and be relied upon to pick up the offensive and defensive schemes quickly.
- Jeriah Horne
The former three-star recruit out of the Kansas City area showed flashes of his future potential, but ultimately Jeriah Horne could not get on board with the fluctuations in his playing time. Those fluctuations came from sub-standard practice habits, which Horne himself acknowledged was the reason. The sophomore forward will now be lacing it up for the Tulsa Golden Hurricane for the foreseeable future.
Horne played in 29 games and his shining moment in a Husker uniform came in an upset over Purdue where he dropped 16 points and hauled in seven rebounds. Due to the sporadic playing time, we were never treated to the full Jeriah Horne show and could only catch glimpses of his talent.
Coach Miles has proven to be a deft recruiter but when those recruits skedaddle out of town after a season or two, it begs the question of the retention rate and whether or not the coaching staff is adapting to the newer generation of basketball players.
It is always tough to lose your leading scorer and senior leader, but adding the triple-body-blow of losing two of your top five returning scorers, as well as a promising youngster, could spell more of what fans saw last year at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Tim Miles has his work cut out for him now more than ever as he looks to maximize the most out of a depleted roster. The sixth-year coach is looking to put a damper on the hot seat chatter and avoid a third straight season without NCAA Tournament play and his ability to do more with less will be tested.