The team has been training together for months and practicing together for weeks. The challenge for Coach Doc Sadler in his fourth season will be molding the newcomers into his style of play.
"I love this basketball team," said Sadler. "I love the work that they're putting in, the effort. I hope we don't learn a lesson the hard way. I'm out here yelling and screaming and fighting everyday to make sure that they understand the importance of each possession defensively. And we're not even close there."
Doc Sadler's trademark has always been physical defense and fighting for each possession. Last season, Nebraska surrendered just 60.4 points per game. The Huskers had key defensive players such as Cookie Miller, Ade Dagunduro, and Steve Harley to lead the team's physical play. Now, Miller transferred and Dagunduro and Harley graduated. Sadler is looking for new players to step up. So far in practice, Sadler has not been impressed.
"We're not even close to being there. The last few years, we've had defensive teams that had that, and you got to give them credit because they're the ones that have followed through. It's not that this teams not working hard, because they're giving all the effort in the world. But the understanding of each possession and how important it is is not there right now.
It's been no secret; Do Sadler's focus is on defense. The Huskers' success in recent years has come from great defensive effort. Recently in an inter-squad scrimmage, both teams drained shot after shot. While Sadler admits he is pleased with his teams' ability to score, he was not happy with his teams' lack of defense.
"Everybody out here can score, and everybody that we play against is going to have guys that can score. What separates the teams is how well you defend and how committed you are to stopping the other team. Right now, we're still in that motive of outscoring people."
After a month of practicing, one would think that Doc Sadler has had ample time to evaluate his new look team. Nebraska new players coming from different states and countries, so it would be fair to assume that Coach Sadler would admit that he is impressed by some of his players. When asked if anyone has emerged during preseason practice, Sadler said, "Nobody. There's nobody that's emerged. Nobody is guarding anybody, and that's what everything's based on."
Sadler announced today that sophomore guard Toney McCray has been battling an elbow injury. The 6'6 guard is expected to play during the teams' two exhibition games, and use those to evaluate his health for the rest of the season
"He won't be back to full health all year. He's got a torn ligament in his elbow and he's got a torn tendon. He won't be until he has it fixed. So the question on him is, is it going to be in the next couple of weeks or is he going to try to get through the year. We don't know that."
Sadler also said that the rest of his team is at full strength, with the exception of Christopher Niemann. The sophomore center had surgery on his re-injured ACL, and will miss the entire season.
Tip off for the exhibition against Arkansas-Fort Smith is set for 7:00 pm at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. Following that, the Huskers will play another exhibition battle against Hastings College, which is set for 7:00 on Tuesday night. The team begins the regular season on Saturday, November 14th when they take on South Carolina Upstate.