Nebraska fans returned to Pinnacle Bank Arena for the first time since the 2019-20 season to get their first look at the newest NU squad at the “Opening Night with Husker Hoops” preseason event on Friday night.
Here are three of the main takeaways from the showcase…
Newcomers like CJ Wilcher made their unofficial Nebraska debuts during Friday’s “Opening Night” event. (Huskers.com)
1. It was good to be back
Before Friday night, the only time a current Nebraska basketball player had played in a game at Pinnacle Bank Arena in front of fans was in November of 2018, when fifth-year senior Kobe Webster was a sophomore guard at Western Illinois.
So while the intra-squad scrimmage and even 3-point contest were fun to evaluate, the real story of the Huskers’ “Opening Night” preseason event was the first official in-person introduction of the team and the NU fan base.
Nebraska made it as big of a spectacle as it could, bringing in CBS Sports national college basketball analyst Jon Rothstein to emcee the event and then cap the night with a concert by rapper G Herbo.
But the highlights of the night were undoubtedly the cheers the Huskers heard in their home arena for the first time. In his brief speech to the roughly 6,500 fans in attendance, head coach Fred Hoiberg promised that there would be a lot more to cheer for this season.
“This is one of the most awesome sights I’ve ever seen, having our fans back in Pinnacle Bank Arena,” Hoiberg said. “I promise you; you’re going to absolutely love this team.”
2. Tominaga stole the show
It’s no surprise that it took Keisei Tominaga all of about five minutes into his first public scrimmage to become an instant Nebraska basketball fan favorite.
The sophomore guard from Ranger (Texas) College put on an absolute show for the White team, unofficially scoring a scrimmage-high 21 points on 5-of-8 shooting from 3-point range.
The Red squad defeated the White 69-55, and the teams were randomly selected.
Not only was he knocking down threes, but he was also hitting from ridiculous range. One of his makes came from right next to the First National Bank of Omaha logo about 30 feet from the basket.
It got to the point where the loudest roars of the night came on Tominaga bombs.
We’ll see how many minutes he ends up getting this season, but it’s going to be hard for NU to keep him off the floor if he continues shooting it like that.
3. Mission accomplished on the recruiting front
Friday night wasn’t just about entertaining fans and celebrating the team. Just as important was making the event as memorable as possible for the five official visitors who were in attendance on official visits.
All five were seated with their family and friends right behind the regular Nebraska team bench. After the scrimmage, they were escorted to the gated-off area by the stage for a prime view of the G Herbo concert.
It might not directly lead to any commitments this weekend. Still, the entire purpose of “Opening Night” was to change the perception of the Husker basketball brand to the most important audience – recruits.
Nebraska did that and then some on Friday night.