Nebraska Basketball: Who is in contention to replace Pitchford and Smith?


What a week for Tim Miles and his Nebraska basketball team. Attrition happens in college basketball and the rumors were flying hot and heavy that some of the stars of the Nebrasketball squad would be moving on.

The first shoe dropped Monday with the news that forward Walter Pitchford would be leaving the basketball team, but staying at the University to complete his degree in Ethnic Studies. A peculiar decision, but it is one that Pitchford told Brian Rosenthal of the Lincoln Journal Star he had on his mind “for a long time.”

Feb 26, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers forward Walter Pitchford (35) shoots the ball in the second half of the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Value City Arena. The Ohio State Buckeyes beat the Nebraska Cornhuskers by the score of 81 to 57. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

So what is Nebraska losing with Pitchford leaving the team? Probably not as much as you would think. While averaging 27.1 minutes per game, No. 35 scored 7.2 points per game while adding 4.6 rebounds. For comparisons sake, the previous year Pitchford averaged 9.3 points per game and 4.7 rebounds per.

On Tuesday, the surprise came in freshman point guard Tarin Smith announcing his departure from the Nebraska basketball team. The New Jersey native announced his intentions and then confirmed them on twitter yesterday.

Of the youth on Tim Miles’ squad perhaps it was Smith with the brightest future. He played in all 31 games, starting three of them while averaging 4.5 points and 1.6 rebounds with .7 assists per game. He clearly stood out while on the court, which makes his loss hurt even more than Pitchford.

The questions now are how do you replace one of your most experienced posts as well as one of the best young players with potentially more attrition coming down the pipes? Fear not, there are options Husker fans.

Feb 15, 2015; West Lafayette, IN, USA;Nebraska Cornhuskers guard Tarin Smith (11) looks for a teammate while being guarded by Purdue Boilermakers guard Jon Octeus (0) during the second half of the game at Mackey Arena. Purdue Boilermakers defeat the Nebraska Cornhuskers 66 to 54. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

First, at the Nebraska guard position Benny Parker and Tai Webster are still on the team and both have experience leading the offense. Parker averaged the third most minutes of any player with 28.2 per game. The issue with him is that his offensive production is lacking (though to be fair, it is with almost every player on the team).

Webster brings international experience and a little more size than Parker, but through the last two years Tim Miles has shown he favors the smaller and quicker Parker to Webster when it comes to point guard play.

The last option is four-star recruit Glynn Watson from Illinois. Smith’s depature certainly opens the door for the freshman to step in immediately and play for Big Red. For my money, Watson would be the starter to begin the season.

Watson had offers from iowa, Marquette, Maryland, Penn State and Creighton amongst others before selecting Nebraska.

Replacing Walter Pitchford will be a little trickier as the experienced options are lacking. On the roster is Jacob Hammond who played in just 11 of the 31 games (and 1.7 minutes on average in those games). Hammond has a big frame, but he must get in the weight room and training table to be able to compete in the Big 10.

Coming in is Edward Morrow, from Chicago, who had offers from Arkansas, Cal, Creighton, Iowa and Iowa State amongst others. The 6’7” forward isn’t a massive five, but he could play at stretch four role that Pitchford (when he was on) filled so well.

Ohio State vs Nebraska

Two other incoming Husker freshman are  6’8” forward Michael Jacobson, a three star recruit from Waukee, IA, Along with some MAC offers Jacobson also held an offer from Iowa State and Jack McVeigh, an international from Australia, both of whom could play minutes in the post.

Another to keep an eye on is recent scholarship offer Westland (Mich.) John Glenn power forward Mike Edwards. Edwards is 6’10” and 217 pounds, fitting a more natural role as a center. Coach Miles and his staff have went after Edwards hard of late, obviously attempting to fill the post spot vacated by Pitchford and graduating seniors Moses Abraham and Leslee Smith.

Shavon Shields also remains as a small forward/power forward who will contribute as a scorer and leader.

More from Husker Corner

Will Smith and Pitchford be the last of the attrition for Nebraska basketball prior to the 2015/2016 season? I’m going to tell you now to not be surprised if there are one or two more. Will Petteway go pro? Will the afformentioned Jake Hammond leave NU? How about someone like Nick Fuller, looking for a better fit?

It’s needless to say that Coach Miles will need to earn his paycheck this offseason after a disappointing 2015 to polish up the program desperate for success. GO BIG RED!!