Published Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 12:01 am / Updated at 5:35 pm
BASKETBALL
Barfknecht: Petteway's year on pace to rank among NU's best
Scoring leaders
BIG TEN (2013-14)
Gary Harris, MSU, 18.4
Yogi Ferrell, Indiana, 17.8
D.J. Newbill, Penn State, 17.6
Terran Petteway, Nebraska, 17.5

NEBRASKA SCORING LEADERS
(PAST FIVE YEARS)

Dylan Talley (2013), 13.7
Bo Spencer (2012), 15.4
Lance Jeter (2011), 11.7
Ryan Anderson (2010), 11.3
Ade Dagunduro (2009), 12.8

LINCOLN — May I have your attention, please?

We all know that Nebraska won its bowl game and which recruits just signed and that Bo Pelini won't reveal the name of his “cat.”

So put football on hold for a moment to lock in on one of this state's better basketball stories in decades — and I'm not talking about Creighton star Doug McDermott's well-deserved attention as the national player of the year favorite.

At Nebraska, Terran Petteway's first season is on track to rank among the school's best since the 1970s, even after Wednesday night's clunker at Michigan.

The 6-foot-6 sophomore, who sat out last season after transferring from Texas Tech, entered the week second overall in Big Ten scoring at 18.2 points a game and first in league games at 19.5.

How significant is that?

In the past 40 years, according to World-Herald research, only three Huskers have ever finished first, second or third in league scoring.

Center Andre Smith did it twice: second in 1979-80 (19.4 points) and third in 1980-81 (18.3). Center Dave Hoppen did it three times: third in 1983-84 (19.9), second in 1984-85 (23.0) and first in 1985-86 (22.1). Guard Tyronn Lue did it once: second in 1997-98 (21.2 points).

(Hoppen's scoring title comes with an asterisk — another example of the curse on Nebraska basketball. NU's all-time scoring leader blew out his knee in the 19th game that season. To be included in the official rankings, he needed to play 23.)

Petteway's 19 of 21 games in double figures and high games of 35 points against Minnesota and 30 against Massachusetts have turned heads throughout the Big Ten.

“People know what he's going to do sometimes, but the league can't stop him,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “He's played against some really good defensive coaches and he's still getting buckets.”

Such performances, in turn, have generated talk about Petteway as a first-team All-Big Ten candidate.

How rare would it be for a sophomore at Nebraska to make first-team all-conference?

It has happened just twice in the post-World War II era — guard Jerry Fort in 1974 and Hoppen in 1984. Both went on to make first-team three times.

Petteway has legitimately worked his way into such conversations, Nebraska coach Tim Miles said.

“Scoring the way Terran has just doesn't happen on a night-in and night-out basis,” Miles said. “The fact that he is doing it as a sophomore is really good stuff.

“He's still got a long way to go to be a complete player. He feels that way, too. But he can get on a roll. And I just try to stay out of his way when he is on one.”

World-Herald readers know about Petteway honing his game at his home hoop in Galveston, Texas, shooting at night by the light of the LaQuinta Hotel sign across the street, or averaging only 3.3 points as a Texas Tech freshman because then-coach Billy Gillispie ordered him to stay in the corner to try to clear room in the lane.

Miles, who tried to recruit Petteway to Colorado State, pegged him early as a genuine scorer.

“I remember telling our coaches that Terran is going to get us 15 or 16 a game if we can limit his turnovers,” Miles said. “His athleticism and his ability to either steal the ball or get in transition is going to get him four to six points a night. He's going to get fouled and make four foul shots a night.

“So we're at 10 points right there, and we haven't even run half-court offense yet.”

Another who believed in Petteway's scoring chops was the man who signed him to his original letter of intent — Pat Knight. The son of hall of famer Bob Knight was the Texas Tech coach when Petteway said yes.

“He was our No. 1 recruit,” said Knight, now coach at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. “We went after him hard.”

In recruiting, Knight seeks guards, wings and forwards. But there is a preferred fourth category.

“We love a guy who is 'a player.' And that was Terran,” Knight said. “He could bring the ball up, he could post up, he could drive it, he could shoot 3s. And defensively he could switch and guard almost anybody.

“We thought he would be a hell of a player in our up-tempo motion offense.”

Petteway told me recently that one of his bigger disappointments in athletics was not getting to play for Knight. His old coach returned the compliment.

“It is a big regret that I never got to coach him,” said Knight, who was fired four months after signing Petteway. “Him and the rest of that recruiting class.”

That Red Raider group included Petteway; forward Jared Tolbert, who is Texas Tech's second-leading scorer (11.1) and rebounder (6.0); guard Toddrick Gotcher, second in assists at Tech; and one player sitting out as a redshirt.

“It was Marshall Henderson,” Knight said. “Think we would have scored some points with that lineup?”

Henderson, the Mad Bomber of college basketball, now is at Mississippi, where last season he averaged 20.1 points and was first-team all-conference. This season, the guard averages 19.1 points.

Knight already had tabbed Petteway, the son of a law enforcement constable, as the next season's leader.

“There are so many high-maintenance players these days, but Terran isn't like that at all,” Knight said. “It's because of his family. His dad put up with no BS.

“I'm sure there are a lot of people in the Big 12 who are kicking themselves for not recruiting the kid harder.”

Knight said he kept tabs on his former recruits and applauded when he heard Petteway was headed to Nebraska.

“I know what a great coach that Coach Miles is, and I thought it was a great fit for Terran,” Knight said. “It doesn't surprise me at all what he's doing.”

What did pop open some eyes this week was nbadraft.net projecting Petteway as a first-round NBA pick, No. 28 overall to San Antonio. The website's evaluation:

“One of the most exciting players in college basketball. Aggressive, imaginative player with a scorer's mentality. 'Crazy' in a good way. Capable of finishing at the rim in spectacular fashion and will do so in traffic without hesitation. Shows a strong understanding of how to free himself for shots. Never seems to take a play off.”

Were that projection to come true, Petteway would make more history. Nebraska hasn't had a first-round NBA draft pick since Lue in 1998.

So in summary, the Huskers have a player who might finish higher in league scoring than anyone at NU in 40 years; grab an all-conference ranking not seen in 30 years; and potentially get into NBA territory not reached in 16 years.

Even in this state, that should get folks to pay some attention to Nebraska basketball.

Contact the writer: Lee Barfknecht

lee.barfknecht@owh.com    |   402-444-1024    |  

Lee Barfknecht has won nine national writing awards from four separate organizations, and is a 12-time winner of the Nebraska sportswriter of the year award. He covers Big Ten football and basketball, Nebraska basketball and other college financial issues for The World-Herald.

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