When Nebraska plays its first regular season game at the new Pinnacle Bank Arena on Friday night, not only will they be faced with a very dangerous opponent (FGCU) but they’ll also be without two guards expected to be major contributors this season.
With Deverell Biggs already suspended three games due to the DUI citation he received last December, Nebraska head coach Tim Miles announced on Wednesday that senior guard Ray Gallegos has been suspended for the Huskers’ first two games of the season. Gallegos, who sat out Nebraska’s 91-60 exhibition victory over Nebraska-Kearney with a hip injury, averaged 12.5 points and 3.1 rebounds per contest in 2012-13 and is the Huskers’ leading returning scorer.
The team made Gallegos one of its three captains for the 2013-14 season, and Miles is expecting his senior guard to grow from this disciplinary measure.
“I believe in Ray. I believe in him,” Miles said. “I do think that he can get past this and be a productive, good player for us and still have a leadership role.
“It’s disappointing, but at the same time, I’m not so sure Ray’s not going to come back better from this. Give him a couple of weeks to collect his thoughts, and he’s going to have to fulfill a couple of obligations to return to our program, and I think those can be beneficial for him.”
With Biggs and Gallegos out there will likely be even more opportunities for freshman Tai Webster, who played 23 minutes and accounted for 12 points and three assists on Monday night. Sophomores Benny Parker and Shavon Shields will also be counted on this season, with Shields scoring a team-high 16 points against Nebraska-Kearney and Parker finishing with seven points and a team-best four assists (no turnovers).
With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.
Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.
“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”
Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.
As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.
Duke is coming off of a national championship but the roster will look almost completely different for the 2015-16 season. That means last season’s approach to things on the offensive and defensive end will have to change and head coach Mike Krzyzewski mentioned to reporters on Friday how the Blue Devils are still figuring some things out.
“We’re putting in a different offensive system, to personalize it for these guys,” Krzyzewski said to reporters. “And a different defensive system so that we can max out on the talents that they have.
“We’re really proud of our team. I think we’re going to be a really good team.”
Without Jahlil Okafor in the middle, Duke’s offense could shift to a mostly perimeter-oriented team, as the wing and guard depth is superior for this year’s group. Coach K and his staff making adjustments to schemes to fit personnel is a nice move from the Hall of Famer, as he’s done a better job in recent years of making adjustments like this after his stint with USA Basketball.
As the program moves on from Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Quinn Cook, it’ll be intriguing to see who emerges as a potential go-to offensive player early in the season and how Duke’s offense potentially evolves as the season wears on.