December 3, 2008

Harley emerging as Huskers' top scoring threat

A lot has changed for senior Nebraska guard Steve Harley over the past year, though some changes have been a bit more noticeable than others.


For one, the Temple Hills, Md., native cut his hair for the first time in three years prior to the start of the season in November, going from shoulder-length dreadlocks to a little more modest Mohawk. But that's been the most insignificant change of them all.


On the court, Harley and his coaches and teammates have all seen the 5-foot-11, 180-pound shooting guard into one of the Huskers' most consistent and talented players in helping NU start off a perfect 5-0 this season.




PREGAME NOTES


Tip: 7:07 p.m. CST

Where: Devaney Sports Center 13,595

Head Coache: Doc Sadler 3rd yr (41-27 overall)

Radio: Husker Sports Radio Network stations (Play-by-play: Kent Pavelka. Color: Matt Davison.)


TV: Fox Sports Midwest, ESPN FullCourt (Play-by-play: Greg Sharpe. Color: Eric Piatkowski)


Satellite Radio: None

Series: First meeting






Heading into Nebraska's showdown with Alabama State tonight at Devaney Sports Center at 7 p.m., Harley stands as the team's leading scorer with 12.2 points per game and averaging 46 percent shooting from the field.


Last weekend in NU's 54-52 win over in-state rival Creighton, head coach Doc Sadler drew up a play designed to get the ball in Harley's hands, with his first option to look to score.


Instead, Harley drew a double-team, and made a pass to Ade Dagunduro underneath for an easy game-winning layup in what Sadler later described as the Huskers' most unselfish playoff the season.


Despite his decision to pass instead of shoot with the game on the line, Sadler said Harley's scoring ability would likely become more and more valuable as the season progresses into the Big 12 Conference schedule.


"That's the thing Steve can do, he can score for us," Sadler said. "We need him to score points for us. We're going to need him to be able to score 16-20 points a game for us."





Alabama State (1-3, 0-0 SWAC)

7:07 p.m.


Nebraska (5-0, 0-0 Big 12)

Fox Sports Midwest, ESPN FullCourt






























PROJECTED STARTERS



Nebraska 5-0




Pos

#

Name

Yr

Pts/reb

G

5

Sek Henry (6-3, 200)

Jr

9.2/3.2

G

4

Steve Harley (5-11, 180)

Sr

12.2/3.2

G

11

Ade Dagunduro (6-5, 200)

Sr

7.6/2.8

G

44

Ryan Anderson (6-4, 205)

Jr

5.0/4.8

C

32

Chris Balham (6-8, 235)

Jr

0.8/0.8





Alabama State 1-3




Pos

#

Name

Yr

Pts/reb

G

2

Andrew Hayles (6-5, 195)

Sr

12.0/2.0

G

11

Brandon Brooks (6-2, 180)

Sr

12.5/4.0

G/F

1

Rashad Provitt (6-7, 205)

Sr

8.3/4.8

F

45

Byron Walker (6-8, 240)

Jr

5.8/5.3

C

42

Chief Kickingstallionsims (7-1, 265)

Sr

6.3/2.6






The fact that Sadler might be trying to thrust Harley into that role as the Huskers' go-to scorer may have never been more clear than when he said he designed NU's final play against Creighton to give Harley a chance to take the final shot.


Coming into the season, the big question was how Nebraska would be able to replace center Aleks Maric, not only for his presence in the post, but also his ability to come up with big baskets when the Huskers needed them the most.


So far this year, Harley has stepped up nicely to the challenge despite previously only playing one season in Lincoln after transferring from South Plains (Texas) College prior to last year. He currently stands as the only Husker to lead the team in scoring in more than one game (18 points against Creighton and 16 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff), and is the only player to score in double figures three times.


When asked if he felt he was emerging as the team's go-to guy on offense, Harley didn't shy away from the title.


"Hopefully," he said. "(Saturday) was my night that night. Yeah, I'd love to be that guy, but we've got so many guys that can fill that role on any night. It could Paul Velander, Ade Dagunduro, Sek Henry, anybody. It's nothing I'm stressing."


One thing that could possibly get in the way of Harley becoming Nebraska's primary scorer is that fact that he's so darn unselfish. As he showed in the final seconds against Creighton, Harley couldn't care less about being the hero or putting up big individual numbers.


His biggest priority is winning basketball games, and making sure he does everything he can to put Nebraska in the best position to do so.


"He's a tremendous competitor," Dagunduro said. "To see his evolution in one year is absolutely tremendous. He's tremendously unselfish, but we need him to score, too. We definitely want the ball in his hands at the last second."


WHAT TO LOOK FOR:


Nebraska currently ranks No. 1 in the Big 12 in scoring defense, allowing just 51.6 points per game through five games this season. Defense has been the foundation of NU basketball under Sadler, and tonight should be no different.


As the Huskers continue to iron out the wrinkles in their half-court offense, look for their defensive play to not only keep the Hornets off the scoreboard, but also create some transitions for Nebraska.


WHO'S HOT FOR THE HUSKERS


While Harley is emerging as Nebraska's No. 1 scoring threat, senior guard Paul Velander is quietly having a heck of a season. Though it won't show in the box score, Velander has been a huge spark for the Huskers off the bench this season.


His most noticeable contributions come from his perimeter shooting, where he leads the team in 3-point shooting, hitting 13-of-25 (52 percent) from beyond the arc. Maybe even more so than that, though, Velander has been a huge factor in his willingness to sacrifice his body to dive for loose balls and take charges that often result in key turnovers by opponents.


WHO'S HOT FOR THE ALABAMA STATE


He might not be having the most impressive season statistically, but Alabama State center Chief Kickingstallionsims (yes, that is his real name) presents one of the most unique challenges the Huskers will see this season.


Despite having the longest surname in Division-I college basketball, at 7-1, 265, Kickingstallionsims stands as the biggest player Nebraska will face in the post this season. He's averaging a little more than six points and two rebounds per game this season, but it will be interesting how the smaller Huskers counter Kickingstallionsims in down low.



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