LINCOLN — Fred Hoiberg had a few more plates of paella to eat before he left Spain, but he already knew what his players would do once they flew back to the United States.
Book more flights for trips back home. Rest, recuperate, and then get ready for the academic year and the first week of classes, which start Aug. 21. The Huskers spent months prepping for and living out their exhibition trip across the Atlantic Ocean, and they’re like anyone else who returns from a long journey: They need a vacation from their vacation.
“When you do these foreign trips you always worry about the burnout factor,” Hoiberg said after NU’s 82-62 win over the Cataluna All-Stars, the third and final victory in Spain. “We tried to really manage their loads with our sports science department and gradually increase to where we could get them to play.”
As Hoiberg gave that answer, NU was working to add yet another piece to its roster in Ball State transfer Jarron “Boogie” Coleman, a second-team All-MAC player who committed to the Huskers Aug. 6.
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The 6-foot-5 volume shooter helps cover the likely loss of Ahron Ulis, the Iowa transfer criminally charged and currently caught up in the gambling scandal that envelops the Hawkeyes’ athletic department.
Hoiberg, by then back in the US, praised Coleman’s addition in a statement.
“We are pleased to be able to add Jarron to our roster,” Hoiberg said. “He is a big point guard who has a very high basketball IQ. His skillset meshes well with the other players on our roster.”
Coleman was Nebraska’s second roster addition in three weeks, as Matar Diop, developed through NBA Academy Africa, also signed scholarship papers. Presuming Ulis — and every other Husker — remains on the roster through the fall, NU is likely done adding scholarship pieces.
One of the Huskers’ walk-ons, freshman Cale Jacobsen, made a splash in Spain.
In the Huskers’ tightest game — a 89-84 overtime win over the Madrid All-Stars — the Ashland-Greenwood graduate scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds in Ulis’ absence.
“He just has a great understanding of what we’re trying to do,” Hoiberg said of Jacobsen. “He took full advantage tonight.”
Freshman Eli Rice took advantage in Spain, as well. He had 20 points and 11 rebounds in NU’s 86-83 victory over the Valencia All-Stars. The 6-7 small forward has turned heads in practice for his ability to score in a hurry, but Hoiberg praised his hustle plays in Spain.
“He had six offensive rebounds and he had a huge play, at the end of the game, where he got fouled, stepped up made a free throw to put us up, and then hit two more on the ensuing possession,” Hoiberg said.
More takeaways from a busy Husker summer:
»The backcourt is talented — but roles still need to be earned and defined. It seems likely Charlotte transfer Brice Williams — who scored 28 in the Madrid win — will get the starting nod at one wing and Keisei Tominaga is the top shooting guard. But Coleman’s addition makes for an interesting competition between he, C.J. Wilcher, Jamarques Lawrence and Sam Hoiberg. Rice, Jacobsen and Lloyd are vying for time, too.
Wilcher took a jump this summer — cutting weight, improving his downhill dribble, scoring consistently in Spain — and Lawrence has the coaches’ eye after a strong freshman year. It’ll be interesting to see how Tominaga, a reserve for the first 1 ½ years of his Husker career, fends off a variety of challengers for playing time.
»Nebraska will ask plenty of Rienk Mast and Josiah Allick. Neither played in Spain — Mast is busy with the Netherlands national team, while Allick finishes recovering from ankle surgery — but it’s clear what role they’ll fill. Hoiberg focused initial summer practices on NU adjusting to Mast’s skillset as a 6-foot-9, all-court shooter.
“I’ve been really focusing trying to talk out the actions that I’m doing so the rest of the guys kind of know what I’m doing,” Mast said in June, before he left for the Netherlands. “We can get more familiar with each other.”
Allick, a Lincoln North Star graduate, already has a coach/scout perspective for the game, noting in July that he’d watch from the sideline NU’s scrimmages looking for strengths and weaknesses in the team.
It’s not a stretch to think both average 30 minutes per game, especially if Blaise Keita’s ankle hasn’t healed and Diop is too raw for a 10-minute-per-game role.
»Juwan Gary is back. His performance in the Cataluna win — where he had 13 points and five rebounds on 6-for-6 shooting –—underlined a full recovery from in-season shoulder surgery. Gary arrived last summer at NU with shoulder issues — that Hoiberg believed affected Gary’s shot — and got hurt in January. If ever such an injury could have a silver lining, it’s this: The Huskers’ offense learned to win games without Gary, and Gary got healthier. It bodes well for 2023-2024.