Nebraska men's hoops practice, 7.23

Nebraska basketball coach Fred Hoiberg passes the ball during a drill July 23 at the Hendricks Training Complex. The Huskers kick off official practice on Wednesday.

The Nebraska men's basketball team starts practice Wednesday.

There's your reminder, with the football team preparing to host "College GameDay" and a top-five Ohio State squad this weekend, that Fred Hoiberg's program isn't all that far away from beginning its maiden journey with 14 new players and a whole lot of questions.

Even with a summer trip to Italy as a base, Wednesday begins the real process of figuring out just how this revamped roster will navigate through the next seven or so months.

"I think there’s some of both (stressful and exciting) sides in that. There’s a lot of excitement with the players we’ve brought in, but there’s also some frustration at times, just because we’re constantly looking for those guys to go out there and play together every time they step on the floor," Hoiberg said at Mondays new conference. "Understanding that we know there’s going to be a greater learning curve with this group than a lot of teams that have a lot of production coming back. We watch a lot of film, even in these offseason workouts, on how we want to go out there and play. And we’ll continue to do that, both individually and (in) team film sessions."

Nebraska will practice in the morning on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before the team is unveiled to the public for the first time at Friday night's Opening Night with Husker Hoops event.

There is plenty of work to be done. The Huskers had good moments while going 4-0 on an early-August trip to Italy. They also played without their potential starting point guard in Cam Mack and a potential contributor in freshman forward Yvan Ouedraogo.

That the word "potential" is in the previous sentence more than once perhaps sums up Nebraska's situation as well as anything — there is the potential for any number of outcomes over the coming months.

"I think we just have to continue to remind ourselves, with all the new faces that we have, we don’t have a lot of production coming back from last year’s group. We want to see our guys go out and play together and play with great effort every time they step on the floor. And if we do that, you can live with the results," Hoiberg said. "If you go out and take the necessary steps and get better on a daily basis, hopefully the results will take care of themselves. But we just want to continue to see progress every day."

Progress will likely come in fits and starts. But you have to start somewhere. For NU's players it's as much about bonding off the court as it is about playing together between the lines. In that regard, Nebraska seems to have gotten off on the right foot.

"We’re spending some time off the court together, then when we get on the court there’s been a good feeling," senior guard Haanif Cheatham said. "I think it went better than a lot of people expected, and I’m glad that it did, and I know it’s going to help us out throughout the season.

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"It’s a major change. With 14 new guys, obviously you want to build chemistry right away, but I think we learned that it’s going to be a process. From the day we left for Italy to right now, I think it’s been great for us. I think everybody’s coming along, learning our system, defensively we’re learning, so it’s going to be good for us."


* Hoiberg declined to comment on the Huskers' efforts to secure an immediate eligibility waiver for transfer forward Shamiel Stevenson, who currently isn't eligible to play in a game for NU until the start of the spring semester.

Stevenson transferred to Nebraska from Nevada, where he didn't play in a game for the Wolfpack, after then-Nevada coach Eric Musselman left for Arkansas. He spent his freshman season at Pitt in 2017-18, then left the Panthers after playing four games of his sophomore season under new coach Jeff Capel.

"I won't talk specifically on that. Obviously when you have a transfer like that, the waiver process is a big part of it," Hoiberg said. "We'll get more into that as we get more specifics."

* Two players who weren't with the Huskers in Italy, Ouedraogo and Mack, have both had their moments during offseason workouts, Hoiberg said.

Ouedraogo, the 6-foot-9, 260-pounder from France has been "pissing people off" because of the way he sets screens, Hoiberg said. Just 17 years old, Ouedraogo will need some time to adjust to the college game, but "he's got a Big Ten-ready body right now, and we've got a lot to work with," Hoiberg said.

Despite his massive frame, Ouedraogo had never lifted weights before coming to Nebraska.

As for Mack, the speedy point guard has worked himself back into shape after an illness landed him in the hospital just before the Huskers left for Italy. Mack came to NU as the No. 3-rated juco player in the country, but like Ouedraogo, has some catching up to do after being sidelined for a good portion of the summer.

"His pace is starting to become more consistent. I think a big reason for that is the fact that he's getting himself in the type of condition that he needs to be in to play at that consistent level," Hoiberg said. "Cam's got some things that you just can't teach. And most of that comes from his speed and quickness."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7436 or cbasnett@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.


Husker basketball reporter

A Ravenna native, Chris covers the University of Nebraska men's basketball team and assists with football coverage. He spent nearly 10 years covering sports at the Kearney Hub and nearly four years at the Springfield News-Leader in Springfield, Mo.

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