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February 21, 2011After putting up 10 points, five rebounds and two blocks in just 15 minutes during Saturday's upset of Texas, Nebraska's Andre Almeida was named the Big 12 Co-Rookie of the Week on Monday.
As would be expected, the junior center was a hot topic during head coach Doc Sadler's interview on the Big 12 coaches' teleconference, even though Sadler apparently hadn't gotten word of Almeida's award quite yet.
"I didn't even know he got it," Sadler laughed. "Obviously if you get that award, you played pretty good. I'm happy for him."
Sadler went on to talk about the difference Almeida has made as he's adjusted to Division-I basketball over the course of the season. After struggling to get into proper playing shape through the majority of non-conference play, the Sao Paulo, Brazil, native has steadily established himself as one of the most intimidating low-post presences in the conference.
"He gives you another option, and you've got to account for him," Sadler said. "Andre is a guy who obviously didn't play at (Kansas State), but he has a chance to come in here Wednesday night (against KSU) and maybe get a few rebounds and hit a basket.
"There's no doubt that we're a better basketball team when he's available to play. At the same time, we're going to have to have a lot more than just Andre to have a chance on Wednesday."
In Nebraska's first meeting with Kansas State, when the Wildcats handed the Huskers a 69-53 beat down in Manhattan, Kan., on Feb. 2, Almeida was held out of the lineup after suffering a sprained ankle during the previous game against Texas A&M.
Now fully healthy and playing as well as he has all season, KSU head coach Frank Martin said Nebraska would be a completely different with Almeida in the lineup for Wednesday night's rematch in Lincoln.
"They were missing about 6-foot-10, 310-some odd pounds of good basketball player," Martin said. "That's going to be a big, big difference in the game. Almeida becomes an unbelievable presence for Doc's team. He makes you defend a little differently. Doc does a great job of utilizing him to run offense. They're a completely different team with him on the floor than they are without him."
While Sadler agreed that Almeida provides an advantage for the Huskers down low, he wasn't ready to claim that missing their big man was the sole reason for Kansas State's 16-point victory.
"Frank's being nice," Sadler said. "That's what he's telling his team and that's what he's telling you guys, but the biggest difference is they just whipped us? They whipped us physically on both ends of the court, they out-rebounded us, they got to the free throw line, they made more free throws than we shot, so they were just the more aggressive basketball team."