For the past two months, Christian Standhardinger has crossed off each passing day on his calendar. On Friday, he crossed off the final day.
After having to sit out of Nebraska's first 15 games this season because of an NCAA ruling regarding the club team he played for back in his home country of Germany, the 6-8 forward will get to rejoin his teammates in a game for the first time since Nov. 10 when the Huskers take on Texas A&M today at 3 p.m. in College Station, Texas.
Though he was able to play in NU's first two exhibition games and has practiced with the team throughout the season, today will be the first time Standhardinger will take the court for a meaningful game and will also be the first time he will travel with the Huskers for a road contest.
It was a long and frustrating wait, but with 16 Big 12 Conference games left to go in his freshman season, Standhardinger is ready to do whatever he can to finally contribute to Nebraska's success.
"It was very hard for me because I'm the kind of person where I do all the stuff - conditioning, weight room, exercises, stretching - all the stuff where you have to force your body just to play the game," Standhardinger said. "It's hard because you do all this stuff and you're not allowed to play. I hated it. I hated it. It was really hard, but I'm glad it's over and I'm able now to help the team.
"I'm just going to come in and try to do the best for the team, give all I've got and hopefully something good comes out."
Standhardinger came to Nebraska with the reputation of being a natural scorer, and he certainly showed flashes of that in his limited action in exhibition play.
In wins over Arkansas-Fort Smith and Hastings (Neb.) College, the Munich, Ger., native averaged 17.5 points per game while shooting 61.1 percent from the field, 81.2 percent from the free throw line and also averaging 7.0 rebounds.
His highlight game came against Hastings, as he led the Huskers with a game-high 18 points and seven rebounds in his first collegiate start.
However, he still has yet to play a single minute against Division I competition, and it's hard to tell how much the time off has slowed his development. Head coach Doc Sadler said he was excited to get Standhardinger back into his lineup, but noted that he still had a lot of catching up to do as far as actual game experience went.
"He's going to make his first road trip, and we'll see if he gets to play and see how it goes from there," Sadler said. "We've got a lot of guys who have played about 15 games that are more ready to play than he is. There's no question about it - his energy is contagious, and he can score points. But there's more to it than just that. We'll see where it goes.
"I think he can score, and he plays hard. But it's one thing to do it in practice. He hasn't done anything in a game. There's a lot of things that guys can do in practice that they don't do in a game and visa versa."
Even Standhardinger admitted that he wasn't quite sure how long it would take him adjust from playing exclusively in practice to going up against live Big 12 competition. However, he also said he's been able to develop good chemistry with his teammates through their work together in practice.
It might take him awhile to adjust after being thrown into the fire and kicking off his collegiate career at the start of conference play, but there's little question that Standhardinger will do everything he can to make up for the lost time as quickly as possible.
"I'm practicing all the time with the team, so chemistry-wise I think I'm there," Standhardinger said. "I have a good connection with all of my teammates because we go through all this very hard stuff (in practice). But when it comes to the games, I think I'm a little bit rusty. I call it game shape. It's a little bit quicker in the games. It's different, so I think it will be hard. But I can only compensate with playing hard and hope it will be enough."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Both Nebraska and Texas A&M have played solid defense all season, so today's game will likely come down to which team shoots the ball the best. Earlier in the week, Sadler said he thought the Huskers would have to keep the score in the 50s to have the best chance at winning. If the Huskers can find a way to get some offense going - especially with their perimeter shooting - and keep up their play defensively, there's no reason they can't start of the Big 12 season with a win over the Aggies.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE HUSKERS:
With Tuesday's 15-point performance in a win over Southeastern Louisiana, sophomore guard Brandon Richardson has now scored in double figures in four straight games. He's also averaged 11.4 points per game on 57.1-percent shooting from the field and has hit nine of his past 13 3-point attempts.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE AGGIES:
Senior Donald Sloan has emerged as Texas A&M's go-to guy following the loss of senior Derrick Roland to a broken leg earlier this season. Sloan comes into today's game averaging 17.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per game while adding 37 assists and 11 steals on the year. He's also taken 65 more shots than any other Aggies this season.