Key Losses: G Jake Muhleisen (6.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.9 apg), G Marcus Neal Jr. (8.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.3 apg), F John Turek (8.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.3 bpg)
Lenexa, KS/Shawnee Mission West
Severna Park, MD/Redshirt 2004-05
Riviera Beach, FL/Dwyer
Anniston, AL/Southern Union State (AL) CC/Redshirt 2004-05
Blacksburg, VA/Redshirt 2004-05
Cincinnati, OH/Garden City (KS) CC
Kansas City, MO/O'Hara
Brooklyn, NY/Laurinburg (NC) Institute
White, who helped Laurinburg (NC) Institute to a 40–0 record and prep school national title, and Marcus Walker, one of Kansas City's all-time leading scorers, should have the Huskers much better equipped to run. B.J. Walker, who began his career at Buffalo, gives Nebraska the physical, offensive presence it's lacked at the power-forward spot. Balham and Marks need polish, but their athleticism should get them regular playing time. Smith enters a crowded situation at point guard. Perry filled it up from outside in junior college and should be a nice complement to Joe McCray.
To order your 2005 Athlon Sports annual and receive $1 off plus free shipping courtesy of SI.com, click here.
On the day his fifth Nebraska team ended its season with a first-round loss in the 2005 Big 12 Conference Tournament -- a result that left the Huskers out of postseason play for the fourth time in his tenure -- coach Barry Collier was told by his boss that he'd be back for a sixth year.
Now comes the tricky part.
When the Huskers next take the court, 10 of the 13 scholarship players will be entering either their first or second year in the program. That might bode well for the program's future, but what about the short term?
"What we see is two of the best recruiting classes in a long time," athletic director Steve Pederson says. "We want Barry to have a chance to coach these kids and see what he can do."
Collier's record at Nebraska is 70-77. During his reign, the Huskers have never finished .500 in the Big 12, and they're still looking for their first win at the league tournament.
Sophomore Aleks Maric, who played for Australia's National Team at the FIBA 21-and-under World Championships over the summer, could be ready for a breakout season. Not that the 'Thunder From Down Under' will catch anybody offguard. Maric set a Nebraska freshman rebounding record, with a team-best 6.3 per game last season. He also chipped in 8.0 points.
The Huskers will need the 6-foot-11, 265-pounder to stay healthy, as their only other true center is walk-on Tony Wilbrand. But the addition of junior college power forward B.J. Walker and the return of senior Wes Wilkinson give NU its most potent inside scoring threats in years. Wilkinson blossomed into a starter midway through the 2004-05 season after missing a month with a broken foot. Walker averaged 16.2 points and 8.7 rebounds at Garden City (Kan.) Community College.
Incoming freshmen Chris Balham and Kyle Marks are an upgrade athletically for the Huskers and will provide some much-need muscle and shot-blocking ability.
Nebraska boasts a solid 1-2 punch on the perimeter with Joe McCray, a member of the 2005 Big 12 All-Freshman team, and senior wing Jason Dourisseau, who was the most improved Husker last season.
Speedy point guard Charles Richardson had the offense moving in high gear down the stretch last season, but he still needs to become more than a two-points-per-game threat. Richardson will face strong competition from freshmen Jamel White and Marcus Walker.
The Huskers also added Bronx, N.Y., product Michael Smith late in the recruiting season after another New Yorker, Will Harris, asked for and was granted release from his scholarship due to a medical condition involving his mother.
McCray, a 6-5 shooting guard, became the first freshman to lead Nebraska in scoring since 1983. His 15.5-point scoring average was the highest ever by a Husker freshman.
Dourisseau, who began last season contemplating a redshirt, found his niche as a slasher and finished as the team's No. 2 scorer and rebounder. Marcus Perry, who redshirted last season after transferring from junior college, will be a factor as well.
A year ago, Nebraska fans believed that a veteran team with four seniors would lead the Huskers back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998. But none of those veterans enjoyed stellar final seasons. The Huskers lost final possession-type games to NCAA tournament teams Minnesota, Creighton, Texas and Iowa State.
Now, those same fans have seen McCray and Maric can hold their own with the best in the league. If a couple of this year's rookies can provide similar contributions, Husker Hoops might finally take off under Collier.