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Observations from a summer workout as Husker hoops works behind the scenes

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North Dakota State vs. Nebraska, 11.28

The Nebraska men's basketball team announced Friday it had postponed its Jan. 30 game against Penn State as it continues to work its way through a COVID-19 outbreak in the program.

The Nebraska men's basketball team is deep into its summer workouts, meeting the first few days of each week before the coaching staff hits the road on the weekends to recruit.

It's a long time from the middle of July to the end of October, when the Huskers will play exhibition games against Peru State and Colorado.

Then again, maybe it's not that long when you're trying to move away from back-to-back seven-win seasons and take the next step towards moving up in the Big Ten.

The Journal Star observed one of Nebraska's workouts Tuesday, the first time media have been allowed in since 2019 as the pandemic forced NU to lock down the Hendricks Practice Facility.

Here are a few observations from NU's 90-minute workout.

Fred Hoiberg has more depth than ever: There are athletes up and down Hoiberg's third roster, and three of the scholarship players aren't even on campus yet. There are in no way any starters or rotations set yet, which is probably just how NU's coaching staff likes it. Competition is plentiful, and will only increase once Alonzo Verge Jr., Keisei Tominaga, and Oleg Kojenets arrive in Lincoln.

Verge will arrive soon enough after NU made his transfer official Tuesday. Tominaga is playing for Japan's 3-on-3 basketball team in the Tokyo Olympics, and Kojenets is playing for the Lithuanian U19 team this summer.

When those three walk through the doors, they'll see a roster already flush with legitimate options at every position. 

Trey McGowens and Quaran McPherson went at each other plenty in drills, as did Derrick Walker and Eduardo Andre. Keon Edwards had his moments as well, getting praise from coaches for being in the right spots both offensively and defensively.

The five-star looks the part: Bryce McGowens is certainly a freshman, and had a couple of freshman moments Tuesday. But he also flashed the tantalizing ability that made him Nebraska's first five-star recruit out of high school. The 6-foot-6, 175-pounder glides up and down the court, and showed off his explosiveness after the practice by throwing down a few highlight-reel dunks. The jumper is silky smooth, and he was firing away from NBA range with ease in a post-practice shooting workout.

He'll have his ups and downs, but McGowens' ups have the makings of being special. Nebraska hasn't had a freshman like him in a long while.

Breidenbach, Lakes recovering well: Top-100 freshman Wilhelm Breidenbach didn't take part in every drill Tuesday as he continues his recovery from a torn meniscus suffered in late May, but the 6-foot-9 forward seemed to move well when he was on the court and wasn't wearing any sort of brace. That's an encouraging sign for a player that figures to be in the mix immediately.

Breidenbach's jumper looks to be nearly unguardable, as he brings the ball up over his head on the way up. Those shots went in plenty on Tuesday, too, when NU was going through shooting drills at the start of practice.

He'll have to get back into the swing of things when he starts participating in full-contact workouts, but it looks like he'll be able to carve out some kind of role when he's back to 100%.

As for Trevor Lakes, the sharp-shooting transfer from Division II Indianapolis continues to rehab an offseason shoulder surgery. He spent Tuesday on the sideline working with NU athletic trainer R.J. Pietig to build strength in the joint, and doing form shooting. Here's to hoping Lakes, who took advantage of the extra year granted by the NCAA, is able to find his form for his final college season.

Shooting should be improved: Kobe Webster was lights-out from three-point range when the Huskers went 5-on-5, continuing a trend he started at the end of last season. And Xavier transfer C.J. Wilcher shot the cover off the ball, something those around the program said he's been doing all summer. 

Trey McGowens made his share as well, and Andre even stepped out to hit a couple during early drills. If nothing else, Nebraska should have more players able to knock down shots than in seasons past.

NU needed to improve after shooting 33% from three-point range last season and 32% the year before. It appears the Huskers are on their way to doing just that.

Fundamentals are being stressed: Nebraska spent a good chunk of Tuesday's workout working on the basics: Things started with defensive rotations, then moved on to a drill in which players drove, jump-stopped, and kicked the ball out to a teammate.

Hoiberg lamented often last season his team's turnover woes, and the lack of practice time to correct them in Nebraska's condensed schedule. It's clear that's been an emphasis so far.

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

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