Huskers Open Exhibition Play

The Nebraska men's basketball team opens the 2006-07 exhibition season with a home contest against instate foe Nebraska-Kearney on Monday, Nov. 6, at the Devaney Center. The game, which will be the Huskers' first under new head coach Doc Sadler, will tip off at 7:05 p.m.

>>>Nebraska Opens Exhibition Play

The game against the Lopers will be the first of two exhibition contests for the Huskers this week, as NU also faces Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Saturday, Nov. 11.

All Nebraska basketball games can be heard on the Husker Sports Network and Huskers.com. For a complete listing of the 26-station network, check Huskers.com. Kent Pavelka (play by play) and Matt Davison (color) will call the action. Live game stats will also be available on Huskers.com.

Sadler took over the Husker program on Aug. 8, 2006, replacing Barry Collier, who left to become athletic director at his alma mater, Butler, after six years on the Husker sideline. Sadler brings an up-tempo offensive game plan to Lincoln that has the current players energized for the season, while his defensive scheme to pressure the ball for 94 feet has given way to impressive results the past two seasons.

Sadler enters his third season as a Division I head coach and has already built a solid resume. In his first season at Texas-El Paso, Sadler posted the seventh-best win total for a first-year Division I head coach in NCAA history. His Miner squad went 27-8 in 2004-05 before reaching the NCAA Tournament. Last year, Sadler's team overcame numerous injuries while posting 21 victories and making an appearance in the NIT. Sadler's 48 victories in his first two seasons at Division I were two off the NCAA's top 20 list.

 

>>>Nebraska Exhibition History

 Nebraska faces the Lopers for the second time in three years and the third time overall in exhibition play. The Huskers have won 11 straight exhibition contests since a two-game losing streak in the final game of the 1999 exhibition season and the first game of the 2000 campaign. Overall, the Cornhuskers own a 41-5 all-time mark in exhibition contests.

Against the Lopers, Nebraska is 2-0 in exhibition play with victories in 2004 (84-71) and 2001 (58-55). In 2004, the Huskers ran to a 16-point halftime lead and then held UNK to 27.5 percent shooting the second half to cruise to the victory.

The 2001 contest was a much tighter affair. UNK trailed by just one point, 56-55, with 3.5 seconds remaining and had a trip to the line for a 1-and-1 opportunity, but missed the first free throw. Nebraska's Cary Cochran, who led the nation in free throw percentage as a senior that season, got the rebound and hit a pair of free throws to seal the exhibition win.

 

>>>Scouting the Lopers

 Nebraska-Kearney returns four starters off last year's 23-8 squad that reached the NCAA Division II Tournament for the fifth straight season. The Lopers won the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference title before reaching the final eight in the national tournament.

This season, the talented UNK squad is the preseason favorite to win the league title and was picked fourth nationally by Street & Smith in its preseason poll. The Lopers were also selected No. 16 nationally in the Division II Bulletin.

Senior forward Dusty Jura is the league's preseason player of the year and a second-team preseason All-American. The son of former Husker Chuck Jura – who still ranks 14th in scoring in Nebraska history – Dusty has scored more than 1,500 career points in his first three seasons and this year looks to become just the fourth Loper in history with at least 2,000 career points.

Also looking to make an impact will be sophomore guard Ryan Moore. A native of Beatrice, Moore is the preseason pick as the league's defensive player of the year. UNK also returns starters in James Lane and Chad Burger, who added 12.5 and 11.3 points per game, respectively, last year. The Lopers' newest addition to the starting lineup will be guard Drake Beranek, a 6-4 freshman from Ravenna, Neb.

The Lopers are guided by co-head coaches Tom Kropp and Kevin Lofton. Kropp is entering his 17th season as head coach at UNK and owns a 352-128 record. He has helped Nebraska-Kearney rank sixth in winning percentage over the last eight years in Division II and his winning percentage (.733) ranks him 13th among active Division II coaches. Kropp's teams have earned 12 20-plus win seasons and made 10 NCAA appearances over the 16 years.

 

 >>>Injury Bug Hits Huskers Hard

 Seven Huskers returned from last season's NIT squad, including three starters in guards Charles Richardson Jr. and Jamel White and center Aleks Maric. Richardson is the only Husker with significant experience who has not missed any practice time with an injury or illness this fall.

Last year, Richardson had surgery on his knee during the preseason and missed the first three games of the season before coming on to start 23 contests. This season, he is one of four players – including freshmen Sek Henry, Ryan Anderson and Kris Douse – who have not been sidelined.

On the other hand, nine Huskers have missed time this year with a wide range of injuries that have relegated them to the bench, including: Jamel White (collarbone), Kyle Marks (knee cartilage), Paul Velander (foot), Chris Balham (legs), Jim Ledsome (ankle), Marcus Perry (foot), Jay-R Strowbridge (thigh) and Mike Smith (thigh).

Aleks Maric became the latest to join the growing injured list as he had an appendectomy on Friday, Nov. 3. He will not be available against UNK as an average time for return to action would be about two weeks. Without Maric, the Huskers are losing their top returning scorer (10.9 ppg) and rebounder (8.4 rpg) from last year. The 6-11, 270-pounder provides the majority of Nebraska's bulk in the paint and returned as one of the top centers in the conference after leading the Big 12 in double-doubles in league-only games last year with seven.

 

>>>Leading by Example

Senior guard Charles Richardson Jr. is the proven veteran of the squad as he is the Huskers' only returning three-year letterwinner. In fact, Richardson and junior center Aleks Maric are the only players on the squad with more than one year of Division I experience.

Unlike Richardson, six Huskers will be looking for their first career action when Nebraska opens the regular season on Nov. 14 at home against the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks.

Last year, the 5-9, 165-pound Richardson helped the Huskers to a 19-14 campaign that included their second NIT bid in three years. Richardson, who has quietly become one of the top floor generals in the Big 12 Conference, is chasing his third postseason appearance at Nebraska this season.

Behind his solid junior campaign setting up the Husker offense, Richardson ranked fourth in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.92:1 and was 10th in the league with 3.33 assists per game after gaining 100 assists on the year. His strong hand helped lead the Huskers to two victories at the Big 12 Championship in 2006, only the third time in school history that Nebraska has posted more than one win at the league postseason tournament.

For his career, Richardson has 220 assists in 87 games. He leads the current squad in both categories and is second among returnees in games started with 35. Only Aleks Maric, who has started 36 of 58 career games, has more experience in the starting lineup.

With similar statistics to last year, Richardson could move into the Nebraska career top 10 for assists. Currently sitting in 10th place on the list is former Husker and current 13-year NBA veteran Eric Piatkowski, who had 322 assists in his career.

 

>>>Testing the Waters

Doc Sadler was the biggest addition to the Nebraska program this summer, but the largest returnee on the floor for the Huskers – literally and figuratively – was junior center Aleks Maric.

The 6-11, 270-pound Maric entered his name into the NBA Draft on April 28, 2006. After testing the waters, Maric withdrew his name before the deadline and, since he did not hire an agent, was able to return to the Huskers for the 2006-07 campaign.

However, Maric wasn't initially convinced that he would return to Lincoln following Barry Collier's resignation as head coach in August. To help Maric make up his mind, Doc Sadler got on a plane to Australia less than 48 hours following his appointment as head coach and spent a few days with Maric and his family so they could get to know each other. The following week Maric announced he would return to Lincoln in time for the start of fall classes.

Maric, who will miss the UNK contest after undergoing an appendectomy on Friday, Nov. 3, was the first Husker underclassman to declare early for the draft since Tyronn Lue announced his decision to forgo his senior season in 1998. Lue remained in the draft and was a first-round selection of the Denver Nuggets. He is still in the NBA playing for the Atlanta Hawks, one of three former Huskers currently in the league.

Maric was one of eight underclassmen from the Big 12 Conference to declare early for the draft, a high for any conference. Six of the players remained in the draft, with Maric and Colorado's all-league guard Richard Roby being the only two to pull out. Of the six who stayed in the draft, four were selected in the first two rounds.

 

>>>Quick Hits

Nebraska will have a young lineup for the second straight season in 2006-07. Last year's inexperienced squad posted 19 victories and gave NU its second postseason berth in three years. This season the Huskers hope to have a similar outcome despite entering the year with even less experience. Only two players – senior Charles Richardson Jr. and junior Aleks Maric – have more than one season of Division I experience.

Nebraska has been strong on the glass the past three years, and with Aleks Maric returning in the paint this season, that success looks to continue this winter. Last year, the Huskers posted the eighth-best rebound total in school history with 1,277 boards for an average of 38.7 rpg. NU has ranked in the top four in the league in rebounding each of the past three seasons.

• NU has the players in place to challenge for one of the top spots in the Husker 3-point record book this winter. Nebraska has posted at least 200 3-pointers as a team only three times in school history – all since 2000 – including hitting 221 treys last year to rank second all-time. When finally healthy, returning guards Jamel White, Marcus Perry, Paul Velander and Charles Richardson Jr., along with newcomers Ryan Anderson and Sek Henry, will form an impressive long-range attack for the Huskers this season.

• Maric's 10 double-doubles last year tied for fifth in NU single-season history. With 13 career double-doubles, Maric enters the 2006-07 campaign ranked eighth on the NU career chart. Maric needs six to move into the top five and with another 10, he would move to third on the list. Venson Hamilton, the 1999 Big 12 Player of the Year, leads the list with 45 double-doubles, while Carl McPipe is second with 25 and Dave Hoppen third with 22.

• Maric has 420 rebounds entering the season and by posting the same total as he had last year (251), he would move into 10th on the Husker career rebounds chart. Maric is just 10 rebounds behind the total Hamilton had at the end of his sophomore season. Hamilton is the only player in NU history to post more than 1,000 career rebounds.

• Maric will also have a chance to move into the NU career top 10 for blocked shots in 2006-07. He owns 55 blocks entering the year and needs just 10 to take over sole possession of 10th place.

• By duplicating his rookie campaign, guard Jamel White will challenge for a spot on the Nebraska career top-10 chart for 3-pointers. White ranked second in the freshman record book with 44 treys last year and needs 59 to move into a tie for 10th place with Chris Cresswell.

Nebraska has four new freshmen on the roster looking for playing time. Nebraska has had solid success with freshmen recently as at least one Husker rookie has been selected to the Big 12 All-Freshman Team each of the past two years. Last season, White earned the honor after moving into the NU freshman record book in six categories despite seeing limited playing time early in the season


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