LINCOLN — If you feel the urge to bash Nebraska basketball coach Tim Miles for not getting a commitment from Omaha Central star Akoy Agau — he chose Louisville — take a deep breath and read the following list:
Bob Boozer: Omaha to Kansas State.
Mike McGee: Omaha to Michigan.
Ron Kellogg: Omaha to Kansas.
Kerry Trotter: Omaha to Marquette.
Bill Jackman: Grant, Neb., to Duke.
Jerry Johnson: Omaha to Kansas.
Cedric Hunter: Omaha to Kansas.
Curtis Marshall: Omaha to North Carolina State.
T.J. Pugh: Omaha to Kansas.
Matt Hill: Lincoln to Texas.
Elliott Eliason: Chadron, Neb., to Minnesota.
Mike Gesell: South Sioux City, Neb., to Iowa.
With a six-decade history of top players leaving this state to join other major programs, did you really think a new coach not named Larry Brown or Danny Manning could turn the tide in six months?
Miles tried like crazy to get Agau, just as Doc Sadler tried like crazy to get Gesell.
But overcoming the inertia of NU basketball — created by the administration's long-term indifference to the sport — will be like turning a battleship in a bathtub.
What ramps up the angst these days is the Internet/recruiting culture. Fans see a Nebraska address on a so-called Top 100 list and immediately assume it's a massive fail if Home State U. doesn't get him.
Does Agau picking Louisville hurt the Huskers? Sure. With so few top players coming out of this state, you want to keep them home. And Nebraska really needs to get an Omaha pipeline going.
But will Agau going out of state crush the program? Hardly.
“In basketball, you just need two great players,” Eric Piatkowski, a two-time All-Big Eight pick at Nebraska and a 14-year NBA veteran, said Thursday. “You get that stud or two, and then surround them with good role players.
“But Agau wasn't the guy who was going to turn the program around.”
Piatkowski isn't alone in that assessment.
Most basketball people I've contacted — from an NBA college personnel director to high school coaches — agree that Agau is an excellent player with strong upside. But in a high-major conference, he projects more as a valued contributor than an all-league player.
In trying to land players such as Agau, Nebraska hasn't been helped by message-board meddlers.
Program insiders openly frown when discussing how prospects swallow the hyperbole on those boards. Players are built up as program-savers.
With the rut Husker hoops has been in for more than a decade, the pressure that goes with the goofy talk of being billed as a messiah causes recruits to second-guess living with that pressure. That makes it a lot easier to go elsewhere.
Not all the best Nebraskans have gone away.
Remember Schuyler's Chuck Jura, Omaha's Dave Hoppen, Omaha's Rich King and Bellevue's Erick Strickland?
But those are the only four players with Nebraska addresses among NU's all-time Top 25 scorers, though you could easily claim Piatkowski of Rapid City, S.D., and Jaron Boone of Salt Lake City with their strong Nebraska family ties.
Nebraskans need to remember Husker football has flipped top out-of-state recruits for years.
Like NU hoops fans, football supporters of Minnesota, Illinois, Kansas and Missouri have moaned when the Huskers took the best players out of Minneapolis, Chicago, Kansas City and St. Louis.
Still, it's painful to see the few top-flight basketball prospects from this state go away more often than stay.
The only way to change that, Piatkowski said, is to win. And it won't happen quickly if you do it right.
“For some school that is struggling to turn things around quickly,” he said, “nine times out of 10 they are cheating to do it. You have to be patient.”
Miles' early work in the program has impressed Piatkowski.
“He's got some good commits, and they are in on guys that other big schools want,” he said. “They'll eventually get better guys.”
Nebraska's new facilities are a big plus, Piatkowski said, and playing in the Big Ten also is a positive.
“Coaching is important, too,” he said. “But great players trump everything.”
And that's why the recruiting search at Nebraska is never-ending.
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