Nebraska Basketball: Possible Sam Griesel replacement joins the portal

Colorado State Rams guard John Tonje (1) looks on from the bench during the second half ( Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports)
Colorado State Rams guard John Tonje (1) looks on from the bench during the second half ( Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports) /

Maybe the Nebraska basketball team can start a new tradition. Every year, Fred Hoiberg can build his team around one player that initially left the state after a successful high school career, only to return just as their college basketball career is set to wrap up. Maybe his scholarship could be named the Sam Griesel memorial scholarship. If such a move is made, it looks like there’s already a very good candidate for the honor in the transfer portal in the form of John Tonje.

Tonje reportedly entered the transfer portal on Tuesday and after an exceptionally successful 2022-2023 with the Colorado State Rams, it would make too much sense for Nebraska basketball to go hard after him. The real question might be whether or not the Huskers can lure him in as this year’s Sam Griesel or whether Creighton might want to bring him back to Omaha.

Tonje played his high school ball with Omaha Central, so he might have just a little more loyalty to the Bluejays than the Huskers. And that’s where the Sam Griesel Memorial scholarship branding comes into play.

In all seriousness, it’s clear that when the former North Dakota standout returned to Lincoln to play for Nebraska basketball, it sparked a bit of a romance between the player and the fan base. It took no time at all for him to be someone that was fun to watch on the court nad on social media. And for someone like Tonje, who might be looking to come home and play college basketball in his home state, there are worse matches than the Huskers. He’s already got a Cinderella story going for himself.

Out of Omaha Central, Tonje didn’t get a ton of looks from either Nebraska basketball or Creighton. That’s why he ended up going to Colorado State. However, even for the Rams, he wasn’t much of a contributor until late in his career. As a true freshman he played in 31 games but only average 8.5 minutes a game. Over the next three years he continued to improve and advance and in 2022-23 he started every game for CSU as the man their offense ran through.

The possible Nebraska basketball target averaged 14.6 points and 4.7 rebounds per game while shooting 38 percent from beyond the three-point arc. That last stat might be the one that makes the Huskers take a very long look at the guard and try and get John Tonje to come home.