LINCOLN — Fred Hoiberg and Matt Abdelmassih couldn’t be more different.
Hoiberg is tall. Abdelmassih is not. Hoiberg is reserved and a little quiet. Abdelmassih absolutely is not.
But the two work well together, and have created some of the best offenses in the country at Iowa State with Hoiberg’s X’s and O’s and Abdelmassih’s recruiting prowess.
Which is why the New York native left St. John’s, his alma mater, and his hometown to rejoin Hoiberg to Lincoln.
“I was torn apart about the decision,” Abdelmassih said Tuesday.
But he chose to come to Nebraska, he said, because he believes in Hoiberg and believes he can sell NU to recruits all over the country.
Abdelmassih, the only NU assistant signed to a contract so far, is known nationally as one of the game’s top recruiters, particularly of transfers. He recruited Royce White and DeAndre Kane to Iowa State during Hoiberg’s tenure.
Kane transferred from Marshall and averaged 17.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.9 assists in the 2013-14 season. White transferred from Minnesota and averaged 13.4 points, 9.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists in the 2011-12 season.
In five seasons with the Cylcones, Hoiberg’s program put nine players in the NBA. Nebraska has had two players, Tyronn Lue and Mikki Moore, in the NBA in the past 20 years.
In the most recent recruiting cycle, Abdelmassih had St. John’s in the mix for five-star high school forward Precious Achiuwa, who’s yet to sign with a school.
Hoiberg hired Abdelmassih as an intern while they were both with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the late 2000s.
“Matt’s as good as I’ve ever seen, not only with kids but with coaches and families, and that’s what makes him a great recruiter,” Hoiberg said. “He’s going to put us in front of some really high-level players, and it’s up to us to show how we’re going to play and show film of what we’re going to do and show these facilities.”
Pinnacle Bank Arena and the Hendricks Training Complex are two big reasons Abdelmassih thinks he can be successful recruiting players to NU.
“What I saw is, to me, some of the best facilities in the entire country,” Abdelmassih said. “You can use the word it’s almost breathtaking.”
Abdelmassih said he can imagine just walking through the facilities with potential signees and not having to say anything.
“And that’s powerful,” Abdelmassih said. “Because you always need to find an advantage. And to me, that’s certainly an advantage we have to hit hard.”
The plan for now is to visit every recruit committed to Nebraska in the coming days. The Huskers also have three scholarship openings thanks to the transfer of Thomas Allen, who announced his departure Tuesday. So Abdelmassih will likely have some work to do when the dead period ends after the Final Four.
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“The next month is going to be vital to seeing how things may play out,” Abdelmassih said. “But I do know we’re gonna build things the right way, and we’re gonna build things how we know it works.”
Growing up in New York, Abdelmassih said he couldn’t have pointed to Nebraska on a map. Luckily, he learned where Nebraska was when he moved to Iowa for the Cyclone job, he said.
“When you grow up in a major city, you’re kinda wrapped into just what’s there, and you don’t think there’s a life outside of New York, because I tell all my friends that — guys, the middle of the country is absolutely beautiful,” Abdelmassih said. “And most importantly you can gain some years back on your life breathing this fresh air.”