Fred Hoiberg opened up his new world for local media to see Tuesday.
Following a morning practice, the new Nebraska men's basketball coach took questions.
How's the team progressing?
“For the most part guys are competing,” he said.
There you have it, Fred's answer to the first question of what we'll call Husker Summer Hoops Media Day.
Bring on Sparty. OK, maybe not quite yet. But what did you expect after the third day of team workouts with a roster that is almost completely overhauled?
Bring on Stella Auzzurra Academy? That's more like it. Hoiberg gets four games in Italy from Aug. 3-13 to size up this crew.
Silute BC and Italian Select also are on the schedule.
Someone please pass the Barbera.
“I can pretty much promise you that any team that’s at this stage of the game right now who’s preparing for a trip or going through their workouts — in the early stages — walks away from the court pissed off because you have too many turnovers and you’re sloppy,” Hoiberg said.
“Our message to our players is to grow each day.”
Hoiberg mentioned at least a few times the importance of fighting through adversity. Read into that what you want.
“Our guys are really good when things are going well out there," he said. "But when the tough times hit, that’s when they have the tendency to shut down. You see that at all levels. We just have to continue to battle through those times. We’re trying to figure out which of our players are mentally tough enough to perform at a high level 100% of the time.”
That's called competitive edge. A coach prefers that a player possesses it innately. But Hoiberg says it can be developed. In explaining how, the new Husker offered insight into his style.
"You sit in there in film sessions and ask questions," he said. "I'm a guy who tries to make it interactive to where everyone’s involved. You ask a kid, ‘Jervay (Green), what are you doing on this play? Talk me through this play. Why weren’t you talking to Shamiel (Stevenson)?' We try to get guys talking to each other. Then they can go out on the floor and be real with each other and hold each other accountable to where they don’t take it personal.
“That’s when you know you’re making progress, when your guys are out there on the floor and they can talk to each other.”
And he doesn't mean by texting. Coaching players to communicate is harder these days. Just ask Pat Fitzgerald.
Bottom line, Hoiberg's players have a total of 10 practices before Italy to make an impression. The ones who show a pronounced sense of urgency will have an advantage.
A few guys apparently have a leg up.
Hoiberg described graduate transfer Haanif Cheatham as “a great leader.” The 6-foot-6 guard will be critical in helping bring along the young players.
The coach said 6-8 sharpshooter Matej Kavas has a high basketball I.Q.
Hoiberg said that because Stevenson is with his third program, he understands the basics well. He’s arguably the team’s best-looking player athletically, a specimen at 6-6 and 245 pounds. He's an outside linebacker with a soft touch from distance.
Fred said freshman guard Samari Curtis (6-4) “is a guy who can shoot it from anywhere.” He’s shooting nearly 50 percent from three-point territory so far.
The coach offered unsolicited praise for how well 2018-19 holdover Thorir Thorbjarnarson has adapted to his read-and-react system.
Meanwhile, 6-4 Dachon Burke, also a holdover, possesses a scorer’s mentality, Hoiberg said.
“He’s going through a little bit of a slump right now, but he’s a guy who can get downhill and get to the basket,” the coach said.
He knows Burke will play hard. That’s critical in Hoiberg's mind, especially right now. Why? Because virtually everyone is new, there will be some struggles that range beyond a coach’s control.
But everyone can control effort.
Hoiberg said he’ll experiment with lineups in Italy. For now, he’s learning as he goes.
“I’ve called them the wrong names a lot, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.
In turn, players are still getting to know the staff.
“They’re still trying to figure out what Doc’s saying, with his accent,” Hoiberg said with a smile in playful reference to assistant Doc Sadler.
Fred’s obviously an offensive-minded head coach. But don’t underestimate the importance of defense in year one.
You know why, right? Because defense is mostly about effort.
“For Doc, it’s very simple: It’s all about getting back and communicating and rebounding,” Hoiberg said. “We need to grow in all those areas. I would say we’re very poor as far as our overall communication right now.
“Some guys are obviously way better than others getting back and setting the defense in transition, and then rebounding. That’s going to be an issue this year because of our size that we’re going to be giving up on a nightly basis.”
Deep breaths, coach. His patience is being tested. It’s part of the fun.
Yeah, easy for me to say.