SAN ANTONIO -- Terran Petteway spent last year’s spring break in Lincoln, in the gym at the Hendricks Training Complex, working on his game.
The NCAA Tournament was on TV, but Petteway had no interest in watching.
“If we ain’t in it,” he said at the time, “I don’t really care too much for it.”
Petteway, who’d just sat out his redshirt season as a transfer, watched the Nebraska men’s basketball team finish 15-18 in Tim Miles’ first season as coach.
To turn things around, Petteway understood the journey to success would start in the offseason.
In the gym.
“We’ve got to all come with it. I mean, with it,” Petteway said a year ago. “We’ve got to be like, ‘We’re going to shock a lot of teams this year. We’re going to make the NCAA Tournament this year.’”
On Friday, Nebraska ends its 16-year NCAA Tournament drought, and Petteway’s leadership, work ethic and drive to win are big reasons why.
The sophomore from Galveston, Texas, will have 30 to 45 friends and family members attending the Huskers’ West Regional second-round game against Baylor at AT&T Center.
They’ll watch a player they know as “Chubby,” a nickname the fit, 6-foot-6, 209-pound guard obviously earned during an earlier stage in life.
“I’ve had that name since I was little,” Petteway said. “I think my dad gave it to me. I was a fat kid. A fat, chubby kid. You wouldn’t think that now, me being a fat kid, but I was fat, slow, all the above.”
Petteway leaked the nickname recently on Twitter, and folks in Galveston were stunned to learn that’s the first Nebraskans had heard of Chubby.
And it’s OK if you call him that, by the way. Petteway approves.
Ironically, a guy named Chubby can’t be punished these days by running wind sprints or stadium stairs.
“I like running. Running, that ain’t a punishment to me,” Petteway said. “That’s why I like track so much.
“I want to do track, but Coach Miles won’t let me. I keep asking him to let me go try out for the 4-by-4 (1,600-meter relay) team. He won’t let me, but I’m going to see if I can change his mind after the season’s over.”
Want to really punish Petteway? Sit him out of practice, forcing him to watch from the sideline.
“That would probably get under my skin,” he said.
Tales of Petteway’s never-ending motor and competitiveness have been prevalent over his two seasons in the Nebraska program.
Petteway said he first learned the importance of a strong work ethic from his father, but that his one season at Texas Tech, where he played as a true freshman, showed him even more how hard he’d need to work to be successful.
Petteway has repeatedly declined to talk more about his time in Lubbock, which ended with coach Billy Gillispie resigning because of health problems amid allegations of player mistreatment.
“I know I became tougher, a tougher player,” Petteway said. “I’m a more mentally tough player. I mean, the things I went through there, that helped me. That’s probably the only area it helped me in, really.”
It continues to show, too.
When strength and conditioning coach Tim Wilson posted the team’s workout plan one day earlier this week, Petteway scoffed.
He wanted something more challenging. So Wilson obliged, coming up with a more intense workout, off the top of his head.
“He’s got a big motor, and he’ll go for a long time,” Wilson said. “He’ll play hurt, he’ll play exhausted. It doesn’t matter. He’s going to leave it all out on the court.
“He’s just one of those guys you wish you had a dozen of them.”
Miles and assistant coach Craig Smith, then at Colorado State, were the first NCAA Division I coaches to offer a scholarship to Petteway.
But when Petteway and a group of basketball players from his recruiting class, all from Texas, took a recruiting visit to Lubbock and attended the Texas Tech-Texas football game, his decision was made.
“That sealed the deal right there,” Petteway said.
When his season at Tech didn’t go as planned, Petteway’s father phoned Smith, knowing he and Miles were looking for players after just taking over at Nebraska.
“I didn’t know if they still wanted me, but they said, ‘Hell, yeah,’ so we just came and signed the papers,” Petteway said.
“I’m happy he gave me a second chance, because there’s no telling where I’d be, man. I’m truly blessed with this opportunity.”
Miles saw firsthand Petteway’s competitiveness and penchant for scoring last season, “when he just drilled us every day on the scout team.” He told his assistant coaches he couldn’t imagine the powerful wing not scoring 16 points a game in the Big Ten Conference.
“He’s going to get six in transition, he just accelerates so well,” Miles remembers saying. “He’s going to get fouled and make four or five foul shots, and he shoots all the time. So he’s going to make a couple shots. So right there he's at 16. I just don’t know how he doesn't do it.
“It’s just a matter of how effective he is, if he makes good decisions with ball handling or whatever it might be.”
Petteway, of course, averaged 18.1 points to lead the Big Ten in scoring while earning first-team All-Big Ten honors.
The scoring title means little to Petteway. He challenges you, without looking, to name the Big Ten’s individual scoring champ from five seasons ago.
“I want to win a championship,” he said.
And that’s why Petteway and the Huskers aren’t viewing Friday’s game as the finish line, the peak of a season that began with low expectations.
It’s also why Petteway, who still prefers watching "Scooby-Doo" or "Phineas and Ferb" over NCAA Tournament games, will again stay in Lincoln this summer, in the gym, bettering himself before the team’s August trip to Australia.
“This is a big accomplishment,” he said, “but it’s just one step forward to where we want to be as a program.”