Nebraska working hard as season draws near

The season is just over two weeks away and everyone wants to see the new Nebraska. For head coach Doc Sadler, he's probably as excited to see them as the fans. They aren't the new Nebraska yet, though. That's the team the new head coach is still trying to find.

If every single player had been healthy from the outset, we might already have a good feel for just how good this year's Nebraska basketball team is going to be. It wasn't that kind of greeting for new basketball head coach "Doc" Sadler, though. It's been an injury plagued team since even before he arrived, and that's one of the biggest obstacles he's had to try and overcome.

"We have to get healthy before we can even start," Sadler said of getting his entire team going in the right direction. "Today we had seven guys practicing, which is the most we have had in over a week."

As it stands, coach Sadler said that he wasn't for certain when he would get sophomore forward Kyle Marks (knee) and sophomore guard Paul Velander (ankle) back for practice. However, there was some positive news as senior guard Marcus Perry (foot) looks to be back at full speed as well as sophomore guard Jamel White (shoulder).

The head coach said that he could finally be getting some others back into practice full time. "Chris Balham could be at full speed by this weekend," he said of the redshirt freshman forward. "Jim Ledsome (ankle) might also make it back by then." The season starts in two weeks, but Nebraska will host their first match of the year on the sixth of next month, as Nebraska will face off against the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Coach Sadler said that the progression his team has made and will continue to make up to that point and beyond, is just by the energy level the squad is exhibiting on the floor. "We're playing hard. I think that right now the effort has been really good," he said. "That's what I wanted, though. They didn't start that way, but I think by this point everyone has bought into just how hard we are going to practice and that's a good place to start."

The good news for the Huskers is that they will bring back four 30-plus game players (Jamel White, Charles Richardson Jr., Aleks Maric, Marcus Perry), and Marks will return, coming off a season where he played in 24. It's not that experience that's the issue.

It's the experience or in this case, the lack thereof that will take time to develop. "We've got guys that are young, but they are all working hard to get where they need to be," Sadler said. "Jay-R Strowbridge is backing up Charles and he's just a true freshman."

"He's got a long ways to go, but Jay-R works real hard and that's where you have to start."

With the returning experience, Nebraska will also have some returning firepower. Over the course of today's practice, players like White, Perry and true freshman Sek Henry stood out as the most consistent shooters of the group.

That's one thing that has the new head coach encouraged. "If this team has a strength, it's that we have guys that can shoot the ball," he said. "The key right now, though, is that we have to first know what a good shot is. I want our guys shooting the basketball, but I want them to take good shots."

As to the defensive side, the aspect of the game Sadler came to Nebraska with in regard to a stellar reputation, he said the team is moving in the right direction. "It's one area where I think we can be a decent team at," he said. "It comes from working hard and as I said, I think they have finally started to practice with the kind of effort we want."

"We're working hard. I can tell you that (but) we have a long, long ways to go."

Nebraska will open up the regular season with Nebraska-Omaha, that tip-off to come on November 14th. That game will be followed up by the first meeting between the new coach in Lincoln and the established coach in Omaha, as Nebraska will host Dana Altman as his Creighton Bluejays.

The Huskers haven't beaten the "Jays" in the regular season since before former basketball head coach Barry Collier had even arrived. It was under Danny Nee when the Huskers, led by guard Cookie Belcher, beat Creighton in Lincoln, 76-60. In last year's match up, Creighton handed the Huskers a 26-point loss, beating Nebraska in Omaha, 70-44. That is the lowest point total for the big red in this series, since the shot clock era began.

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