LINCOLN — James Palmer has yet to play a basketball game for Nebraska, but he already leads the team in one category.
“Everybody talks a little smack,” said the 6-foot-6, 210-pound transfer from Miami. “But I talk the most trash. Good trash. Bad trash. I always talk trash.”
The Washington, D.C., native’s chatter brings back memories of the never-bashful Terran Petteway, the first-team All-Big Ten pick who led Nebraska to the NCAA tournament in 2014. In some ways, so do their styles of play in that both are 6-6 and can handle the ball and drive the lane to create.
“Terran and me are good friends,” Palmer said. “We talk a lot. He liked to slash and score. I like to do that, too, but I like to pass and rebound.”
Coach Tim Miles doesn’t shy away from the Palmer-Petteway comparison.
“Here’s what I love about James,” Miles said. “When all heck is breaking loose on the court, he’s at his best.
“When you play the Michigan States of the world, it’s a fistfight. It’s a huge physical confrontation, and that’s where he’s at his best. That’s where he and the Terran comparison come out.”
Palmer also has shown his play-making skills this summer and fall, while spending time at point guard, off guard and small forward.
“I like to play the point,” he said. “I’m a combo. It’s hard to guard a 6-6 or 6-7 guard who can dribble and handle the ball and make plays.”
Miles said Palmer has become noticeably stronger and more consistent in his play since transferring in the summer of 2016.
“Miami wanted to keep him,” the coach said. “They thought a redshirt could really help. When you take a Division I transfer, they sit out. I love that because they get better. The time off allows you to see the game differently and digest it without emotion.”
At Miami, Palmer averaged 13.3 minutes as a freshman and 11.6 as a sophomore, playing in 72 games.
His second year, the Hurricanes reached the Sweet 16 where they were eliminated by eventual champion Villanova. Palmer averaged 3.5 points and 1.2 rebounds, with a season-high 14 points against Mississippi State.
“I don’t regret going to Miami,” he said. “We had a pretty good run. My two years at Miami helped me grow as a person.”
Nebraska assistant Kenya Hunter’s ties to the D.C. area helped the Huskers get involved with Palmer, a top 100 recruit out of high school.
“When I came on a visit here, it just blew me away — facilities, coaching staff, what they told me I needed to work on,” he said. “After playing in the ACC, you’ve got to come to the Big Ten. That’s the next big thing. I’ve always wanted to compete against the best.”
What does Palmer think of NU’s roster compared to the Sweet 16 Miami team?
“The talent level on this team is similar,” he said. “We might have a couple of more types of guys here. This group, we’re really going to bond together and hopefully make something special.”
If that happens, Palmer won’t be afraid to tell you about it.