The University of Nebraska at Omaha didn't have far to go to find Nick Billingsley.
And it worked out well that Billingsley wanted to stay close to home.
A high-flying wing who can dig down and defend as well as score in a variety of ways, Billingsley committed to a scholarship offer from the Mavericks.
“It's a really good school, and I can see myself playing there,” Billingsley said. “I like the coaches and I feel like I could do a lot of great things there, plus I didn't really want to leave home.”
Billingsley, who said he's a shade shorter than 6-foot-5, has transferred for his senior season from Omaha North to Omaha Central.
He said he picked UNO after receiving interest from the likes of Wisconsin, Marquette, Wichita State, Tulsa, Drake and Miami (Ohio).
“Nick shoots the 3 pretty well, and he can get in the paint and elevate and knock down shots,” Central coach Eric Behrens said. “This summer he did a really good job of offensive rebounding and finishing around the basket. There's a lot of value in that.”
Projected to score moderately well for a Central team that is expected to be among the nation's best, Billingsley's game fits UNO's spread-the-floor offense in which wings are encouraged to penetrate and create for themselves or teammates.
“He's a big wing who is skilled and can score in a bunch of different ways,” Behrens said. “He'll probably be right up there among our top three or four guys (in scoring), but it's going to be tough for anybody to average a lot of points for us.”
Billingsley, a 177-pounder, said he's excited about UNO's future, which includes moving into the Ralston Sports and Event Center this season and becoming eligible to qualify for the NCAA tournament in the 2015-16 season. UNO is set to begin its second season of transitioning to Division I.
“I think we could have a great team that we can build around,” he said.
Billingsley is looking forward to playing with former Omaha Benson star CJ Carter, who started as a freshman for UNO last year, and incoming freshman Jalen Bradley of Norfolk, Neb.
“It's great that UNO is going after local guys,” Behrens said. “It's always more exciting, whether it's Creighton or UNO, if there's an Omaha guy on the roster. People like to see that and like to follow those guys.
“It looks like (UNO coach) Derrin (Hansen) is doing a great job recruiting and building a couple of good classes now back to back.”
UNO adds juco guard to basketball roster
Alex Phillips, a 6-2 guard from New Mexico Junior College, cleared his final academic hurdles and has been added to the UNO basketball roster.
Phillips joined the Mav program earlier this summer.
Hansen said the Phenix City, Ala., native is expected to have a significant impact this season.
“He's an athletic wing who is really competitive, shoots it well enough to keep people honest, and he's not afraid to stick his nose into places,” Hansen said. “That gives him a chance to be an important part of our team.”
Phillips signed with Eastern Illinois before his sophomore season with New Mexico JC, but was allowed out of his letter-of-intent after a coaching change.
He averaged 10.1 points per game and was named All-Western Junior College Athletic Conference.
UNO had been pursuing Phillips since last fall. A New Mexico JC assistant was formerly on the staff of UNO assistant Pat Eberhart when Eberhart was head coach at Colorado State-Pueblo, giving the Mavs an in.
Phillips' addition gives UNO 12 scholarship players and one walk-on for the 2012-13 season. The Division I scholarship limit is 13.
Six of UNO's scholarship players are 6-2 or smaller, while another is 6-3.
“We looked into a couple of possibilities late this summer, but we didn't think there was anything there that would help us,” Hansen said. “We may pursue something at the semester, and if not we'll carry one (scholarship) into next year.”
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