March 4, 2009

NU seniors looking for big win in Devaney farewell

When Nebraska's four seniors took the floor for Tuesday's practice, it was clear that the reality of the situation was finally starting to sink in.


For Ade Dagunduro, Paul Velander, Steve Harley and Nick Krenk, Tuesday likely marked the last time they would ever prepare for a home game at the Bob Devaney Sports Center, barring NU hosting any postseason contests.




PREGAME NOTES


Tip: 6:31 p.m. CST

Where: Bob Devaney Sports Center (13,595)

Head Coach: Doc Sadler 3rd yr (53-38 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.)

Series: Nebraska leads 129-100






When the Nebraska takes on Iowa State tonight at 6:30 p.m., it will be the final chance for Nebraska fans to cheer for the four players who came from across the country from a variety of backgrounds because they wanted to be Huskers.


They'll be honored with a pre-game tribute, play in front of their home fans one last time, and then do their best to make the most out of a season many thought would be far worse than it has been.


Then, just like before they found a common meeting ground in Lincoln, Neb., two years ago, they'll all continue on in their separate ways. If head coach Doc Sadler could have it his way, though, all four wouldn't be going anywhere.


"I wish I could have all those guys for another year," Sadler said. "That's the thing about it, when you have a special group like this, the season goes to fast. But that's part of college athletics. It's going to be time for them to move on, and some new guys are going to come in."


Sadler took some time Tuesday to look back on the contributions his four seniors have made for the program during their respective tenures at Nebraska. Though they may not have been star-studded recruits when they came to NU, he said all of them brought a work ethic and team spirit that very well could benefit the team for years to come.






Iowa State (14-15, 3-11 Big 12)

6:31 p.m.


Nebraska (16-11, 6-8 Big 12)

Fox Sports Midwest, ESPN FullCourt






























PROJECTED STARTERS



Nebraska 16-11




Pos

#

Name

Yr

Pts/reb

G

5

Sek Henry (6-3, 200)

Jr

8.1/3.3

G

4

Steve Harley (5-11, 180)

Sr

10.3/3.4

G

11

Ade Dagunduro (6-5, 200)

Sr

12.4/4.3

G

24

Cookie Miller (5-7, 165)

Jr

7.3/2.2

F

32

Chris Balham (6-8, 235)

Jr

2.1/2.5





Iowa State 14-15




Pos

#

Name

Yr

Pts/reb

G

10

Diante Garrett (6-4, 185)

So

9.7/5.1

G

5

Lucca Staiger (6-5, 225)

So

8.0/2.3

G

22

Bryan Petersen (6-1, 180)

Sr

6.2/3.9

F

21

Craig Brackins (6-10, 230)

So

19.9/9.1

C

41

Justin Hamilton (6-11, 255)

Fr

4.5/3.1






"With the success that this program is going to enjoy over the next few years - I hope - we'll look back, and maybe it's not the wins and losses that this team is going to be responsible for, but they're going to be responsible for something that's so much more and so much bigger," Sadler said.


"The work ethic and the character and the pride of this program, that's what this group does. There are some things are more important than wins and losses. They can sometimes be lucky or fake or whatever. But it's been the consistency that this group has shown for two years."


While he may not be the most physically gifted player on the team, Sadler said Velander in particular embodied nearly everything he could ask for in a player. His knowledge of the game, unwavering spirit and intensity and his willingness to sacrifice his body on even the most mundane practice drills have made Velander one of Sadler's all-time favorite players to coach.


"I think so many of us talk about how it's not how it's not wins and losses, it's how you play, and I think that's Paul," Sadler said. "I think he really believes that, and that's good. That's the way he lives his life, with so much discipline and care, and so many positive things. Sure we'd love to win all the games, but Paul's the kind of guy who - in my opinion - it's not wins and losses, it's how you play. Wins and losses are going to come and go. One thing that's not going to come and go is you knowing that you've given your best every day."


Velander said that while he's made a name for himself as the player willing to take bumps and bruises for the betterment of the team, it's not something he necessarily takes a lot of pride in. For the Blacksburg, Va., native, the only thing he's taken pride in during the past five years has been his desire to simply do whatever it takes to help his team win.


"I just enjoy playing basketball," Velander said. "I enjoy playing with my teammates and playing for my coaches. If (taking charges and diving for loose balls) is the role I take, than so be it. But that's not the satisfaction I get. The satisfaction I get is doing what I can to help the team."


Though tonight will be the seniors' last game in Devaney, they're counting on having a few more games still to play before all is said and done. With two regular season games and the Big12 Conference Tournament still to go, the Huskers know that they still control their own destiny in terms of their postseason goals.


As long as they can start winning again and keep winning, tonight will hopefully by no means be their last hurrah.


"Finishing strong is key," Dagunduro said. "As I said on Saturday, win or lose, I'm still going to go out on a high just being with these guys and the coaching staff. Nothing can take that away from me."


***NOTE: Fans going to tonight's game are encouraged to be in their seats by 6:15 p.m. to help honor Nebraska's four seniors before the game. Starting at 6:15, the four players be recognized with a short tribute video, and then will be introduced individually along with their parents at center court, where Sadler will give them framed jerseys for their contributions to the program.


WHAT TO LOOK FOR:


Despite having four players standing 6-foot-10 or taller, the biggest concern for Sadler coming into tonight's game is Iowa State's shooting ability on the perimeter. With players like guards Bryan Peterson and Lucca Staiger combining for 109 3-pointers by themselves, the Cyclones have the ability to hurt any opponent from downtown.


In the first meeting between the teams in Ames, Iowa, the Cyclones hit nine 3s in a 65-53 victory, including six by Staiger alone.



WHO'S HOT FOR THE HUSKERS


While all the seniors will be looking to have big games in the Devaney farewell, Dagunduro is by far the most likely to have the biggest impact of any Husker. The Inglewood, Calif., native is averaging 12.4 points and more than four rebounds per game this season.


In Nebraska's past 10 games, Dagunduro has averaged better than 15 points per contest, and has scored in double figures in 18 of NU's 28 games this year.


WHO'S HOT FOR THE CYCLONES


Sophomore forward Craig Brackins isn't only Iowa State's best player, he's also one of the best in the entire conference. Averaging nearly a double-double a game (19.9 points and 9.1 rebounds), Brackins has already established himself as one of the Big 12's premier big men.


In the Cyclones win over NU earlier this year, Brackins went off for 21 points and 12 rebounds, with most of his numbers coming in the second half down the stretch.



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