LINCOLN — Partial credit for Nebraska sophomore Terran Petteway's rise to No. 6 in Big Ten scoring goes to a La Quinta Inn in Galveston, Texas.
While growing up across the street from there, Petteway would shoot baskets on his outdoor hoop morning, noon and night “until my mom made me come in.” But there was an issue at night.
“I could hardly see the goal,” he said. “The only light I had was from the hotel sign.”
Shooting hoops in the dark can be problematic.
“Yeah,” Petteway said, chuckling, “but it makes the hoop look really big when the lights are on.”
Even in the bright lights of the Big Ten, the 6-foot-6 transfer from Texas Tech is still making the hoop look big.
Entering Thursday's home game against Michigan, he's averaging 17.3 points while shooting 43.1 percent from the field and 86.7 percent from the foul line. His free-throw rate is third in the Big Ten.
“Terran has a bright future,” Husker coach Tim Miles said. “I think he's going to make a big splash in the Big Ten.”
Opposing coaches getting their first look at the sinewy slasher are impressed.
“Tell me there's a better player in our league than Petteway,” Iowa's Fran McCaffery said. “That guy's a handful. He's terrific.”
Ohio State coach Thad Matta is on board, saying: “He can score. He's freakish athletic. To me, he looks like he's still feeling his way. But he's a guy who can go get points whenever he needs to.”
Petteway is 1.4 points behind Big Ten scoring leader Rayvonte Rice of Illinois. Six games with at least 20 points tie Petteway for the league lead. He scored a career-high 30 against now-No. 19 Massachusetts.
More importantly for Nebraska basketball, Petteway offers consistent scoring.
That's worthy of a hallelujah in a program that for the past 13 years has struggled with the simple act of putting the ball into the basket.
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If Petteway maintains his scoring pace, he'll have the second-highest NU season average since 2000, behind only first-team All-Big 12 center Aleks Maric's 18.5 points in 2006-07.
In sophomore-year scoring, the only Huskers who have posted higher totals than Petteway's current count were Dave Hoppen (19.9), Tyronn Lue (18.8) and Jerry Fort (18.0).
That's fast company.
Hoppen, Nebraska's all-time leading scorer, played six NBA seasons. Lue, now an assistant with the Los Angeles Clippers, is NU's No. 8 all-time scorer who left a year early to start an 11-year NBA career. Fort is the school's No. 3 all-time scorer and was a third-round pick of the Boston Celtics before a broken leg derailed his pro career.
Scoring has been part of Petteway's game from the time he picked up a ball.
“You can ask my dad and my brother,” he said. “If I wasn't scoring, I was probably mad. I finally got over that, but it took awhile.”
Petteway regularly averaged between 20 and 30 points a game in high school and in AAU play. He signed with Texas Tech and coach Pat Knight, who had adopted a more wide-open offensive style than his Hall of Fame father.
But before Petteway took the court as a freshman, Knight was fired, Billy Gillispie was hired and offensive play at Texas Tech had taken a backseat to everything.
“When I was at Tech,” Petteway said, “they basically told me to run to the corner on offense and not do much of anything. Even when the ball came to me, I wasn't supposed to shoot.”
After averaging 3.3 points a game and enduring Gillispie's maniacal workouts, Petteway looked to escape. That led him to Nebraska and Miles, who had once offered him a scholarship at Colorado State.
it took almost two weeks of practice at Nebraska for the coaches to break him of running to the corner on offense.
Now, Petteway knows what to do and what everyone else should do.
“Terran is probably our most knowledgeable guy on the squad,” Miles said. “When we do a game plan or scouting report, he can recite it script, chapter and verse. He has worked hard to make himself a student of the game.”
Some players fritter away a transfer season by going through the motions. Not Petteway, who took two major steps last season to get ready for this year.
One was exerting himself in the weight room.
“The weight work really helped my game more than people would think,” he said. “I'm stronger to the basket. I can play through contact. Just to know you have that strength really helps your confidence.”
The second was to clean up the mechanics on his jump shot.
“When I first got here, I used to kick my leg out on every shot,” Petteway said.
Front, back or sideways?
“Front, back, sideways and any other way you could do it,” he said. “Now, it's much more up and down. It has really helped.”
Despite Petteway's production, Nebraska (8-6, 0-2) has posted season scoring lows in each of the past three games: 59 vs. Cincinnati, 57 vs. Iowa and 53 vs. Ohio State. The Huskers are second-to-last in the Big Ten in scoring at 69.7.
Petteway, without bragging, said he could see himself averaging 20 points a game, but added, “That's not the goal. I'd rather average 10 and get more wins so we can make it to the postseason.”
Appropriately, this post-practice interview occurred after Petteway stayed into the evening to work on free throws. The good news was the lights were left on.