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January 29, 2014
Huskers ready to move on with life without Biggs
In the wake of the news on Tuesday that junior point guard Deverell Biggs had been dismissed from the team, one of the immediate reactions from Nebraska fans, and even the coaches, was how would the Huskers replace his production on the court and move on without him.
Despite missing four games this season while sitting out due to suspension, including Sunday's 82-80 win over Minnesota, Biggs still ranked third on the team in scoring with 9.9 points per game while averaging 20.5 minutes off the bench. Though he also turned the ball over 2.3 times per contest, the second-highest average on the team, there was no denying that the Omaha native provided NU with an offensive spark with his electric playmaking ability with the ball in his hands.
So how will Nebraska go about filling Biggs' void moving forward? The answer, head coach Tim Miles said on Wednesday, will be through a combination of options.
"There were games we won that if we don't have Deverell, we don't win," Miles said. "Because he's a guy that can get his own shot. He's a guy that's electric with the ball, and we don't have that. We don't have another guy that's going to do that. So certainly you lose that aspect, and that concerns me as a coach. But we just have to become something else. You don't have to play basketball one way. That's the glorious part about it. It's not like we're a wishbone team and all of a sudden now we have to go out and run the spread."
The obvious first option is for true freshman point guard Tai Webster to take on an even bigger role than he's already had in his debut season as a Husker. While sharing the bulk of the point duties with Biggs through the first 19 games, Webster has averaged 5.6 points, 2.2 rebounds and a team-high 2.4 assists per game. Miles was asked if having Biggs out of the mix could actually take some of the pressure off the New Zealand native just by firmly establishing him as the team's top point guard.
Miles said he never thought Webster was overly concerned about losing playing time to Biggs, and that the Huskers wouldn't be looking for much more out of Webster the rest of the season than what he's been giving.
"I really don't think Tai looked over his shoulder, and I don't think there's more onus on him," Miles said. "Tai just needs to continually get better, bottom line. It's that simple. We don't need more out of him. We certainly don't need less, but at the same time, we just need to collectively as a team grow up and understand what successful basketball looks like."
Miles said he's seen Webster continue to get better each day since he arrived in Lincoln this past August, and while he's still far from a finished product, Webster is steadily becoming more and more confident in his role on the court.
"I think we've seen a little more aggressiveness (from Webster) at times," Miles said. "I think he's more locked into the game plan and understanding the responsibility that goes with every defensive possession. He still makes some mistakes where he tries to make too much happen offensively, especially early in a possession. He's really good when somebody else is maybe driving the ball and he is the next guy getting it, shooting or driving it, passing it. That's when he's at his best."
As for Nebraska's bench rotation going forward, Miles said it would likely look a lot like what NU used in Biggs' absence against Minnesota. That means junior forward David Rivers (20 minutes against UM), junior forward Leslee Smith (19 minutes) and sophomore point guard Benny Parker (10 minutes) will be the primary subs off the bench.
Miles said said sophomore forward Walter Pitchford, who had 13 points and made three 3-pointers against the Golden Gophers, would continue to have a green light from beyond the arc, and was also hopeful that Parker could continue to chip in some offense here and there. The 5-foot-9 Parker is only averaging 1.5 points per game and has just 16 assists in 19 games played, but he drained two mid-range jumpers and dished out two assists in his 10 minutes against Minnesota.
"That's a shot we've always told him he should take," Miles said, "and the fact that he just found the gaps and took them I thought was great."