LINCOLN — Last year, during the first week of Nebraska men’s basketball practice, three players entered coach Tim Miles’ office wanting to know what position they would play.
“This year, I’ve had none,” he said. “That says something.”
The focus on team over self is part of what Miles on Monday called a reinvention of his program after going 12-19 in Year 5 and seeing four players transfer.
“We had transfers,” he said. “We had a key player graduate. The year before, we had a key player transfer again. When you get those losses, it feels bad and looks bad.
“But I really like where this team is mentally and physically. We’re going to be a lot better. I think we can make a charge.”
The Huskers started workouts Saturday without likely starting center Jordy Tshimanga. The 6-foot-11 sophomore underwent what Miles called “a minor procedure” to relieve knee tendinitis, and is expected back within a week.
No one wants to miss practice because of the depth of talent on hand and the intensity of competition for playing time.
Miles said he has multiple lineup options, including one so big that the shortest player would be 6-foot-6 James Palmer at point guard, and one smaller with 6-8 Isaiah Roby at center.
Point guard Glynn Watson is an “All-Big Ten-caliber player.”
“He seems better than ever,” Miles said of the 5-11 junior from Chicago. “He seems like a better leader and is more confident. He finally feels like this is his team. I would expect him to act and play accordingly.”
Look for Georgetown transfer Isaac Copeland, a 6-9 junior forward, to play regularly, too.
“He’ll be a top-one or two scorer for us, and a top-three rebounder,” Miles said. “He’s still learning. It’s a different style for him. There is still some acclimation.
“He’s an eager learner. He’s kind of a cool kid, so you don’t always know (what he’s thinking). But he has been a great teammate and great to coach.”
Schematically, Miles has adjusted his motion offense and his pack-line defense for better outcomes with 3-point shooting — making more and defending better. More zone defense and some trapping also is likely, he said, to better utilize the roster.
Nebraska’s lone exhibition game is Nov. 7 against Northwood of Michigan. The regular season opens Nov. 11 at home against Eastern Illinois.