Tim Miles and the new look Nebraska Cornhuskers men's basketball team finished their seventh practice of the season on Wednesday and Big Red Report was on hand to get our first look of the season.
"I think through the first seven practices, what is clear to me is out of those guys eligible to play, who we can play," said Miles. "Those guys are starting to emerge for me.
"I feel like our guys are picking up what we are asking them to do. But sometimes you can't tell. For example we might have a weakness on offense that makes us think our defense is just fine, but we scrimmage Iowa State in a couple weeks and they expose us. You really don't know until you get outside yourselves."
Despite it being just October, Miles says the squad is physically ready for the rigors of a college basketball season, after players participated in strong offseason workouts.
"I think they are ready. Our strength and conditioning with Tim Wilson I think is pretty good," said Miles. "We have a lot of fundamentals to teach them, because we have a different system, in some ways a lot different than Coach Sadler's. So we have to get those fine teaching points in for us. Physically I think we are ready."
Peltz jumps right in to the mix
After helping Western Nebraska Community College go 26-7 last year, point guard Mike Peltz was a late walk-on addition for the Huskers this season.
The junior hasn't disappointed.
After averaging 7.5 points, 6.2 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game last year in WNCC play, Peltz (6-foot-2, 199 pounds) is working some with the first team during practices.
"I think he has helped himself and picked up our stuff," said Miles. "He's asserted himself as a guy who can compete for playing time. It's a golden opportunity for him."
Earlier in the week, Miles told Huskers.com every play was going to be given a fair shot to play big minutes in 2012-13.
"When you are thin in numbers, it may relax the players because they know they are going to get a chance, and a second and third chance," said Miles.
Peltz played at Alliance high school, earning district MVP during his senior season, when he averaged 23 points and four assists a contest.
"We need more guards, especially point guards," said junior Ray Gallegos. "Mike can handle the ball and is a big body. He's adjusting pretty well. It's good to have him."
Pitchford and Petteway pushing squad
Both sitting out after transferring to Nebraska, it's forwards Walter Pitchford and Terran Petteway's job to push the first team this season. On Wednesday, they were doing just that.
"I have told them they don't exist. They are redshirts, I don't worry about them," said Miles.
"I said listen, 'sometimes you are going to be groups where you might say, "gee, I'm with two walk-ons." Big deal find a way to be successful no matter what group you are in.' They will get reps at the right time, but not right now."
Due to both of their lengths, first-team players like forward Brandon Ubel should benefit from playing against them season.
Almeida is the number one option at center
So far, so good for the Brazil native.
One of the first things Big Red Report noticed on Wednesday was Andre Almeida's play on the court. He didn't look like a player who sat out last season due to knee problems.
The senior 6-foot-11 center isn't even wearing knee braces. His trainer told him that he doesn't have to, if they don't feel comfortable.
"I think he looks as good as he has in my time here. He's a large guy, so his DNA is not going to allow you to see a different guy out there," said Miles. "But I think he's handling all of our stuff really well.
"I'm trying to manage him a little bit. When the guys have to run a wind-sprint, I will put him on the elliptical. I'm trying to get him off his knees a little bit. There is a little bit of managing him, but I think his conditioning is good. I think he's playing alright."
* True freshman Shavon Shields should see the floor this season, but is probably a year or two away from blossoming into a solid contributor. We like what we see from him on the floor, but he needs to add muscle to his frame for his game to be truly effective at the Big Ten level.
"I think Shavon has a good mind for the game and a good feel for the game. He fits in well with what we like to do with our style of play," said Miles. "All new players are never where you want them strength and conditioning wise. It's going to be a big adjustment for him, but I think he will do the work."
* Ray Gallegos returns after redshirting last year to get bigger. The junior said that he's a more complete player now and is more patient on offense. The Utah native says he's also increased his weight nearly ten pounds (muscle) and can feel it on the floor.
* Wednesday's practice featured plenty of push-ups. When a player makes a mistake, Miles squad does a set number of push-ups.
"It's a subtle reminder," said Miles. "Plus, I want strong fingertips."