Fred Hoiberg

Fred Hoiberg said, so far, his team hasn’t responded well to adversity. When things are going well, the team looks great. But when a few things go wrong, the team “shuts down,” Hoiberg said. 

LINCOLN — Fred Hoiberg already sees the flaws.

The communication isn’t there. The defensive effort is lacking at times. The team is really, really small. Hoiberg — back in the college game after three seasons with the Chicago Bulls — was frustrated with early practices last week.

“I can pretty much promise you, anybody who is at this stage of the game right now that’s preparing for a trip or going through the workouts, in their early stages, (they) walk away from the court a lot of times pissed off because you have too many turnovers and you’re sloppy,” Hoiberg said.

But he knows these are necessary growing pains.

The program is still getting acquainted with 11 new scholarship players and three new coaches. Hoiberg is hoping after 10 practices the past few weeks, a flight overseas and four games against foreign teams in Italy, some of the aches will be healed. Or at least eased.

Nebraska will board a flight for Italy on Saturday for a 10-day trip. Two days after landing in Rome, Hoiberg will coach his first game from a Husker bench against Stella Azzurra Academy, a Serie-B team, the second-tier of the Italian professional league.

NU’s next two games will be Wednesday and Thursday against Silute BC, a Lithuanian professional team. On Aug. 12, the trip will finalize in a game against Italian Select.

All games will tip off between 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. local time — 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Central time. The games aren’t streaming online but postgame reports will be sent by the athletic department and daily radio updates will be provided by the Husker Sports Network.

All but two new Huskers will compete overseas.

Yvan Ouedraogo, one of the highest-rated recruits in program history, is competing for France in the European Under-18 championships in Greece. He’ll join the team after that tournament but won’t be able to play. Ouedraogo’s best game so far came against Latvia, with 11 points on 5 of 6 shooting and five rebounds.

Cam Mack, a Salt Lake Community College guard coaches are high on, has yet to practice in a Nebraska uniform. Initially, Mack had to sit out while waiting for his final grade to be posted from Salt Lake. After he received word he was good to go, he was out with an illness. He announced Wednesday afternoon he’ll miss the trip because of it.

The rest of Hoiberg’s new talent — freshmen Kevin Cross and Samari Curtis, sharp-shooting transfer Matej Kavas and junior college standout Jervay Green, to name a few — will play in Italy.

Tennessee transfer Derrick Walker and Western Kentucky transfer Dalano Banton will have to sit out a season at Nebraska, but will be able to play during the trip.

Haanif Cheatham, a graduate transfer from Florida Gulf Coast, has already taken one of these trips. As a freshman at Marquette, he played in Venice. And he knows how important these next few weeks will be.

“I think the benefit of it is getting early runs, playing other competition, you know seeing how our offense and defense is against other situations besides practice,” Cheatham said.

The play might not be pretty.

So far, Hoiberg said his team hasn’t responded well to adversity. When things are going well, the team looks great. But when a few things go wrong, the team “shuts down,” Hoiberg said.

He worries about how his team will rebound, how effective they’ll be able to run the things he’s implemented. He plans on experimenting with lineups, though he doesn’t anticipate an exact rotation when the team touches back down in the United States.

But Hoiberg thinks the true value of this trip will come off the court.

This team hardly knows one another. The only two who played on the same team last year — Dachon Burke and Thorir Thorbjarnarson — didn’t play in a game together since Burke had to sit out. Everyone is still learning routines and habits of each other. And being away from Lincoln is an opportunity to bond, Hoiberg said.

The key moments of the trip will be after games, when the team gathers around the dinner table without phones and hashes out what happened. Around those tables in the Italian evenings, that will be where the growth begins.

“You go and sit over there and talk about it and you don’t have the distraction, that little device that they become so attached to, that’s a huge part of this opportunity in front of us is the chance to build the chemistry with each other,” Hoiberg said. “A lot of opportunities for our guys to get to know each other, build chemistry, see who can play together, especially when times are tough.”

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Here is the schedule for Nebraska’s games:

Monday: Nebraska vs. Stella Azzurra Academy. Tip at 6:30 p.m. in Rome, 11:30 a.m. in Lincoln

Aug. 7: Nebraska vs. Silute BC (Lithuania). Tip at 8 p.m. in Ponte Buggianese, 1 p.m. in Lincoln.

Aug. 8: Nebraska vs. Silute BC (Lithuania). Tip at 6 p.m. in Ponte Buggianese, 11 a.m. in Lincoln.

Aug. 12: Nebraska vs. Italian Select. Tip at 7 p.m. in Costa Masnaga, noon in Lincoln.

Here is Nebraska’s roster for the trip:

Freshman Akol Arop

Freshman Kevin Cross

Junior Shamiel Stevenson

Junior Dachon Burke

Junior Derrick Walker

Freshman Samari Curtis

Freshman Jace Piatkowski

Senior Haanif Cheatham

Junior Jervay Green

Senior Matej Kavas

Freshman Charlie Easley

Junior Thorir Thorbjarnarson

Freshman Bret Porter

Sophomore Dalano Banton

Chris Heady covers Husker football and is the Nebraska men's basketball beat writer. He started at The World-Herald in 2017. Follow him on Twitter @heady_chris. Email:

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