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September 2, 2008

Sadler talks roster, scheduling issues

Nebraska head coach Doc Sadler held a press conference Tuesday to give an update on the latest happenings within the Husker basketball team.

However, he still had far more questions than he did answers.

The two focal points of the morning were prospective recruit Jorge Diaz and 2008 commit Christopher Niemann, as the status of both is still officially unknown. Sadler said the Huskers are still actively recruiting Diaz, though he has been cleared to play by the NCAA Clearinghouse.

Because Diaz, a 6-foot-11 native of Puerto Rico, is still technically a perspective recruit, Sadler was limited in what he could say about his situation. He did say that the biggest hold up keeping Diaz from joining the team is that he's still awaiting admittance from the University. Sadler said he expected a decision to made soon.

"We're just not in a position yet to have him on our team," Sadler said. "Only thing I can say is that we're recruiting him. Just waiting for a final decision on being admitted to the University. He's been cleared through clearing house. We're just waiting on a decision."

As for Niemann, Sadler said he was cleared on Friday, but that he knew all along it would be difficult for Niemann to come in and play immediately. Because of issues with getting his visa, Niemann, a 6-11 native of Germany, will have to sit out the entire year, but he is on campus and taking classes this semester.

Sadler said the team tried to get Niemann enrolled in a prep school so he could play while his visa situation was worked out, but couldn't find any takers.

"The biggest negative in my opinion is not that he's not eligible to play this year, but that he loses that year," Sadler said. "It's not like we can use that as a redshirt year. If we could've found someone (a prep school) that we thought could've helped, we probably wouldn't be bringing Christopher in. That was the agreement that we had. He probably would have gone to prep school for a year and been down the road.

"In the long run, it's definitely going to be a much bigger positive than negative to have Christopher in our program."

Sadler said Niemann was going to check on his visa today, and that he'll be in Lincoln by tomorrow or Thursday.

These latest recruiting struggles follow in a long list of roster issues Sadler and his staff have had to overcome during the past couple years. Highlighted by the well-documented Roburt Sallie debacle, Sadler said this summer has been one of the most difficult offseasons he's had to deal with in his coaching career.

"It's been an interesting summer," he said. "Obviously it hasn't gone the way would've liked for it to in all the areas, but that's part or it. You just got to deal with it…That's part of building a program. It's not always going to go the way you want it to. Hope it starts to."

Scheduling conflicts

At the moment, Nebraska has 17 down and one to go.

With the start of the season just months away, Sadler said the Huskers are still searching for their 18th and final non-conference home game to officially complete their 2008-09 schedule.

"We thought we'd have our schedule finished, but it's still not done," he said. "I think we're real close. We need one game. (The schedule) seems to be getting more difficult each year. I hope that continues."

Sadler said he is looking almost exclusively at bringing an opponent to the Devaney Center, but he didn't completely rule out adding another road game to complete the schedule.

For that to happen, though, the Huskers would have to schedule the game with school from a BCS conference, i.e. Big 10, SEC, etc. Sadler said he has contacted every school in the Big 10, but had no success.

He did say he's hoping to get a deal worked out with Minnesota and head coach Tubby Smith where Nebraska would travel to Minneapolis next year and the Gophers would come to Lincoln the following season.

If everything goes well, Nebraska may end up extending the deal with Minnesota over the next four years.

"Right now it's to the point of whoever you can get," Sadler said. "We have tried to schedule Iowa, we've tried to schedule everybody in the Big 10. I think Tubby and I are going to try and work something for the next two years and maybe next four. We've talked about it. That'll be a good game for us."

Right now, Nebraska is tentatively set to begin a home-and-home series with Oregon State, with this season's game in Corvallis, Ore. The Huskers also travel to Arizona State in December.

Ideally, Sadler said he'd like the Huskers to face two or three BCS teams in its non-conference schedule, but right now he's more concerned with just finding one last team to play.

One thing Sadler did know was that Nebraska would likely not play a game in Omaha at the Qwest Center. In his opinion, games at neutral sites aren't worth the hassle.

"If you really look at the end of the year, neutral site games really don't help you," he said. "They don't help you really at all."

Lack of height, little concern

With the status of freshmen big men Diaz and Niemann still up in the air, Nebraska is undoubtedly missing something from its 08-09 roster: height.

As of Tuesday, the Huskers do not have a player taller than 6-9, meaning the term "small ball" just might be the team's motto this season.

However, if that is the case, Sadler said he's not worried in the slightest.

"I've said from Day 1, I think it's the responsibility of the coach to play his best players on the floor no matter what position they are," Sadler said. "That'll be my responsibility along with the coaching staff that if our best five players are guards, then five guards are going to play.

"Are we small? Yeah, probably. But that's what it is, and we'll deal with it and move on."

Sadler said the Huskers very well could start off the season with the same playing style as they with finished last year, utilizing a fast-paced, spread-out offense combined with aggressive defense looking to force turnovers.

The only aspect in which Sadler said he thought NU could be at a significant disadvantage is rebounding. The good thing for the Huskers in that regard is that the 3-point line has been moved back one foot from 19 feet, 9 inches to 20 feet, 9 inches.

With longer shots being taken, rebounds should become longer, thus slightly reducing the need for big players in the post to haul in rebounds.

"The one area in my opinion that is going to determine what kind of year we have is rebounding," Sadler said. "If we can find way to rebound with the size of guys we've got…we'll be alright."

Huskers fare well on injury front

Some of the best news for the Huskers as the offseason winds down has been the ability to stay healthy and quickly recover from injuries suffered last season.

Sadler said no player has missed any of the Huskers three workouts the past three days, and that several players are recovering nicely from existing ailments.

Redshirt freshman Brandon Richardson missed nearly eight weeks this summer with an injury, but has been at all three of the Huskers' two-on-two workouts this week. Junior Chris Balham is coming off yet another knee surgery, but has also been at the workouts.

Sadler said Balham would likely always be limited in what he can do in games and in practice, but he's been happy with Balham's recovery thus far.



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