LINCOLN — Nebraska basketball forward Shavon Shields’ path from home to campus each day takes him right by Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Even after seeing the construction of the new building up close for over a year and now having practiced inside it, the sophomore from Olathe, Kan., can’t help but shake his head in wonder at NU’s first new home for hoops in 38 years.
He marvels at two things.
First, all 15,200 seats are sold despite the program not reaching the NCAA tournament since 1998.
“I can’t fully wrap my mind around it,’’ Shields said Thursday. “It’s crazy. It’s a good time to be with Husker basketball.’’
The other mind-blower is the accoutrements of the arena itself.
“The place is amazing,’’ Shields said. “If it doesn’t exceed your expectations, you have way too high of expectations. They did a great job on it from top to bottom.’’
Nebraska fans on Friday night can view the arena and the 2013-14 Huskers at a public scrimmage on the first day schools are allowed to practice.
Doors will open at 6 p.m. as NU finishes a normal practice. Starting at 7, Nebraska will hold scrimmage periods of 15 and 10 minutes with second-year coach Tim Miles doing commentary over the public-address system. In between the scrimmages, skills contests are scheduled, with an autograph period afterward.
Shields is one of five returning scholarship players. Freshman forward Nick Fuller from Sun Prairie, Wis., is one of seven newcomers.
Fuller, like Shields, is dazzled by the new facility.
“I was blown away,’’ he said. “I didn’t even have words to describe it. I was just taking it all in. I’ve never seen anything like it before.’’
Fuller knows what premier basketball buildings look like. Having grown up in surburban Madison, he knows Wisconsin’s highly praised Kohl Center well.
“The thing I notice a lot from being at the Kohl Center to this arena is the arena (seating) is more up,’’ he said. “The Kohl Center flattens out. You can tell the people are going to be on top of you and create a better atmosphere.’’
College basketball practice traditionally has begun on Oct. 15. This season, NCAA rules altered that to allow 30 practices in 42 days before the opening date of Nov. 8. Generally speaking, Miles likes the change.
“The opportunity to be with your players more is always good,’’ he said. “The more access the better.’’
But there might be a trade-off.
“I’ll be curious to see how this translates over the length of a season,’’ Miles said.
Basketball is a six-month season to begin with. Adding another two to three weeks could lead to some burnout.
“That’s my worry,’’ Miles said.
Many coaches use the first few days of practice as a physical challenge with two-a-days or three-a-days. Others schedule four-hour sessions. Not Miles.
“I’ve never been a boot-camp kind of guy,’’ he said. “I understand that. But our first four or five days are teaching in a more low-key setting. We try to teach expectations now so they can perform later.’’