LINCOLN — Call it an opportunity regained for Nebraska basketball’s David Rivers.
The 6-foot-7 junior went from starting six of the first seven games this season to playing only nine minutes in the next nine games.
Now, Rivers is back in the frontcourt mix starting with Monday’s home game for the Huskers (8-8, 0-4) against No. 11 Ohio State.
“I’m going to give Dave a chance to get back in the lineup,” NU coach Tim Miles said Thursday. “He’s a guy who doesn’t require shots. He’ll give us a little more balance on not having so many guys out there who feel like they need a shot.”
Rivers said the wild swings in playing time at first caused him doubt.
“It’s been a struggle,” he said. “I was starting. Then I was playing a little bit. Then I went to not playing some games at all.
“I really tried to look in the mirror and figure out what I can do to help the team.”
Rivers’ first mission is to play well enough to relieve Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields, who average 31.4 and 31.3 minutes a game.
Miles said Petteway and Shields have spent too much time at power forward playing against bigger opponents. Nebraska’s lineup with 6-10 Walter Pitchford and 6-8 Leslee Smith together also has shown shortcomings.
“It’s been OK, but we’ve made a lot of defensive errors with that group,” Miles said. “We might need that lineup some. Earlier in the year, we played more zone with that lineup, but I’m more naturally a man-to-man guy.”
Miles smiled in recounting how Rivers took the news of imminent playing time.
“Dave kind of looks the same all the time,” the coach said. “He’s an easygoing guy and a good kid. He was like, ‘Great, I’m ready.’ ”
Rivers averages 2.4 points and 1.4 rebounds. Last season, he started 17 of 33 games, averaging 5.6 points and 3.4 rebounds.
What does he see as his first mission upon entering the game?
“A big thing is defensive rebounding,” Rivers said. “And I need to make plays. Making plays isn’t always just scoring. It can be defensive stops and defensive rebounding.
“And being a leader. I’m a junior and we’re a young team. It’s something we need.”
Senior guard Mike Peltz also will get a longer look in practice at joining the playing rotation, Miles said. Peltz has appeared in five games.
“Mike will get a shot at the wing,” the coach said. “But it’s harder for Mike because we have so many guys able to play the wing.”
As for the starting lineup, Miles said it likely won’t change because the minutes will go to whoever earns them.
“We just need to get guys on the floor who can play well on a regular basis,” he said.