Since March 30th, Nebraska’s new Head Basketball Coach Fred Hoiberg has been busy even without coaching a single game. For those of you confused with the headline, Hoiberg was coined with the nickname “The Mayor” because, in 1993, he received several write-in votes during the 1993 Ames, Iowa mayoral race. Hoiberg is a reputable guy in the basketball world.
Fred Hoiberg, of course, was born in Lincoln, Nebraska but then moved to Ames where he was walking distance from the Hilton Coliseum where the Cyclones play. Naturally, Hoiberg attended Iowa State to play basketball from 1991-1995 and he was quite the player. He was tough, great at getting to the basket, and had a feathery shooting touch. During his career as a Cyclone, he averaged 16 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals, while also shooting 51% from the field and 40% from three. Not a bad college career. Hoiberg then went onto play in the NBA as he was drafted in the 1995 draft with the 23rd pick in the second round by the Indiana Pacers. During his NBA career from 1995-2005, he played for three NBA teams, the Pacers, the Chicago Bulls, and the Minnesota Timberwolves. While playing in the pros, he averaged five points, three rebounds, two assists, and shot 43% from the field and 40% from deep.
In 2006, Hoiberg announced his retirement, taking a job in the Timberwolves front office. Then in April of 2010, Iowa State announced that Hoiberg would be taking over the helm replacing Greg McDermott, who was then taking over the program at Creighton University. Hoiberg was there until 2015 and posted a record of 115-56 and recorded four NCAA Tournament appearances out of the five seasons he was there, including a Sweet 16 finish in 2014.
Hoiberg then took a job with the Chicago Bulls in June of 2015. He posted a record of 115-56 and one playoff appearance. He was fired shortly after the 2018-2019 season with the Bulls starting the year at 5-19.
Now named Head Coach of the Huskers on March 30th, Hoiberg is back in the college ranks where he has had a lot of success. And for the Huskers, a team that doesn’t have a rich history on the court, this hire is a slam dunk. Hoiberg also follows in the footsteps of his grandfather, Jerry Bush who coached the Huskers from 1954-1963 as he posted a record of 81-132.
In the short time he’s been the head coach, Hoiberg has been hard at work. He finalized his staff with assistants, Matt Abdelmassih who has a lot of experience with recruiting. His last job was as an assistant at St. Johns for four years. Bobby Lutz brings more than 30 years of college basketball coaching experience and he has won 400 games. Armon Gates was retained from the Tim Miles staff. And one, of course, is a familiar name, Doc Sadler. Sadler was the Huskers head coach from 2006-2012 taking the Big Red to three NIT’s (2008, 2009, 2011) and posting a record of 101-89. Following his tenure at Nebraska, he was hired in 2012 as the Director of basketball operations. Then he worked with Hoiberg for 2013-2014 and the Cyclones went 28-8 and fell in the Sweet 16. Then Southern Miss hired Sadler and from 2014-2019 he posted a record of 56-94.
Hoiberg then took no time totally flipping the roster. With just two players remaining from last year’s team, junior Dachon Burke, who didn’t play at all after transferring from Robert Morris, and the other is junior Thorir Thorbjarnarson who saw some time with 25 games played and seven starts and averaging two points per game. There is still a chance that senior Isaiah Roby will be coming back, but right now he is testing the NBA waters and getting positive feedback from the scouts.
But with that being said, 13 new players will now be on campus. There’s a very glaring theme and it’s accommodating to the new style of basketball. Hoiberg is constructing his roster with long, lanky, athletic wing players and guards that can slash and shoot the long ball. For Husker fans, the first comforting thing was Hoiberg was able to keep the commitment of JUCO product Jervay Green, a 6’3 combo guard from Denver, Colorado. He played in the JUCO ranks at Western Nebraska Community College and this past season he averaged 24 points, six rebounds, five assists while shooting 55% from the field and 39% from three. Not bad, not bad at all. Green is just the start though. The staff was able to bring in the #3 point guard in the JUCO ranks Cam Mack of Salt Lake Community College. He averaged 19 points, seven assists, and six rebounds. It looks like the backcourt will be phenomenal for Nebraska, with those two and Dachon Burke in the mix too.
When looking at the wing players Hoiberg took no time either finding quality players. A pair of graduate transfers highlight this group, first 6’5 guard Haanif Cheatham of Florida Gulf Coast had a nice senior season as he averaged 13 points, five rebounds, and two assists. It was a small sample size as he played just 10 games with a shoulder injury. The other is Matej Kavas, from Seattle University. Kavas has a fantastic touch when shooting the ball as his career three-point percentage is 45%. This past season he scored 10 points per game but the season before he poured in 15 points.
Hoiberg teams are notorious for not having a true big man, and it’s worked well for him. Prime example: Melvin Ejim had 1,000 points, 900 rebounds, and 100 steals in he career at Iowa State while playing inside and outside at 6’6. Another, Georges Niang who had career numbers of 16 points, five rebounds, three assists, while shooting 38% from the field, standing at 6’8. With the number of transfers, some of his big men will have to sit due to the NCAA rules, but Yvan Ouedraogo of France is 17 years old, averaged 13 points and nine rebounds During the 2018 U16 European Championships and he stands at 6’9. There’s a lot to like about the roster for the Huskers early on.
With what Hoiberg has put together so far from staff to players, it looks like the Huskers are going to try and score a ton of points and lock teams down with a defensive specialist in Salder. It may be a different brand of basketball for Husker fans and the Big Ten, but it should be entertaining nonetheless.