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January 16, 2014

Rivers ready to return to NU's rotation for good

There came a point when David Rivers, who hadn't even taken his warmup suit off in seven games, sat on Nebraska's bench and decided something needed to change.

After starting six games early in non-conference play, the junior forward had been gradually pushed so far down the rotation that he had almost become an afterthought for the Huskers during the start of the Big Ten schedule. It wasn't anything specific Rivers had done to warrant the demotion. It was just that he wasn't doing much well enough in games or in practice to earn his way onto the court.

That apparently changed during NU's week-long break between games this week, as head coach Tim Miles announced Thursday that one way he would try to give his team a spark when it returns to action on Monday against Ohio State was to give Rivers a much bigger role.

"One thing for sure is I'm going to give David Rivers a chance to get back in the lineup," Miles said. "He's just a guy who really doesn't require shots. I think our decision making with shot selection and stuff, maybe it'll give us a little more balance on not having so many guys out there that feel like they need a shot. Dave's practiced alright. He's done pretty well… Dave's definitely getting a shot."

For Rivers, it was obviously a frustrating stretch to sit and watch his team play without him, especially during Nebraska's current five-game losing streak and 0-4 start to league play. Faced with either spending the rest of the season on the bench or doing something differently to get back on the court, the Little Rock, Ark., native took the proactive approach.

"It's been a struggle," Rivers said. "Obviously I was starting then playing a little bit and then went to not playing some games at all. I've just been really trying to look in the mirror and figure out what can I do to help the team, and that's what I've been doing these past two weeks of practice, really, just trying to fit in and see what the team needs in order for us to be successful."

The main contributions Rivers has been working on are in his rebounding - especially on the defensive end - and his leadership as one of Nebraska's few upperclassmen on the roster. He admitted to being a bit passive early on this season with so many new players joining the mix, saying he didn't assert himself on the floor enough or establish his role within the team. In his nine games played and six starts this season, he averaged just 2.4 points on 19 total shots while only bringing down 1.4 rebounds per game.

"At first, I didn't really know why," Rivers said of the reason for his demotion. "I was questioning a lot of things, myself of course. It wasn't really anything (Miles) said, because it was something that I already knew. It was nothing that just popped up at the beginning of the season. It was something that we'd talked about even in the summer way before the season.

"It was just there's so many new faces. The kind of player I am, it was just a little difficult finding a way to play, because I like to play off my teammates. It was just a learning process."

As Nebraska continues to move pieces around in search of its best lineup combinations, Rivers hopes to be an important part of the Huskers' rotation for not only the rest of this season, but for the remainder of his career. That's why he fully plans of making the most of his second chance on Monday against the Buckeyes and beyond.

"It's very important, but I just look at it as, because I've been going hard in practice, I don't want to put any more applied pressure, so I'm just going to keep doing what I've been doing," Rivers said. "If you go as hard as you can, there's nothing else you can really do."

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