LINCOLN — Trey McGowens just wanted to play in space.
In two years at Pittsburgh, he started 64 of 66 games and was the third-leading scorer last season as a sophomore. But Jeff Capel’s system was a little stuffy. The Panthers ranked 308th in tempo last year and 299th in average offensive possession length.
McGowens felt he could thrive in an up-tempo system. One that spreads out, puts the ball in the hands of guards and challenges them to make plays. So he entered the transfer portal this spring.
Over a FaceTime call during a virtual visit this week with Fred Hoiberg, the Huskers offered McGowens just that. Space. So one of the top transfers on the market committed to Nebraska on Saturday morning, becoming the newest member in a five-person 2020 class that’ll bring a new-look Nebraska basketball in 2020-21.
“I watched some of their games, and just seeing how they played and with the system Coach Hoiberg runs, I just felt they trusted the players to make plays, and that just sold me,” McGowens told The World-Herald on Saturday afternoon.
McGowens is technically a sit-out transfer, but he wants to play right away. Nebraska will apply for a waiver. The 6-foot-4 guard scored 11.5 points per game with 3.6 assists and 3.3 rebounds as a sophomore.
Nebraska wants him to play point guard.
“They said they just want me running the 1, that that’s my natural position,” McGowens said.
He is technically the second point guard to commit to Nebraska this offseason, joining Western Illinois graduate transfer Kobe Webster. Dalano Banton, a 6-foot-8 transfer from Western Kentucky, also will run point.
The plan, McGowens said, is to have all three on the floor at the same time if they can.
“They space it out so much that anybody will be able to do whatever they’re able to do,” McGowens said. “The offense, the spacing, it creates so that I feel like I’ll be able to get to the basket and do whatever I want, open up plays for teammates.”
If McGowens is not ruled eligible, he’ll replace Webster as the point guard next season.
With the commitment, Nebraska now has one open scholarship. McGowens joins Wisconsin transfer Kobe King, Webster and junior college wings Teddy Allen and Lat Mayen in the 2020 recruiting class. King and McGowens will need waivers to play next year.
Those five will join fellow transfers Banton, Nevada transfer Shameil Stevenson and Tennessee transfer Derrick Walker on the roster. That’s eight guys who have played Division I basketball for another team. Four players who recorded minutes on last year’s team remain: Thorir Thorbjarnarson, Yvan Ouedraogo, Akol Arop and Kevin Cross. Nebraska is slated to bring back less than 40% of its minutes from a 7-25 team that ended the season on a 17-game losing streak. Cam Mack, Jervay Green and Dachon Burke all have left the team since Nebraska’s loss to Indiana in the Big Ten tournament.
McGowens was a four-star point guard out of the Hargrave Military Academy in the 2018 class. 247Sports rated him the No. 95 player in the class and No. 10 combo guard. He had offers from Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Baylor. Current Nebraska assistant Matt Abdelmassih offered McGowens a scholarship at St. John’s. That helped bring McGowens to Lincoln.
“Just the relationships, especially with Coach Matt, that helped a lot,” McGowens said.
Nebraska was in on McGowens as soon as he entered the transfer portal this spring. He announced that Nebraska was in his final five schools, along with Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn and Mississippi.
This week, McGowens had a “virtual” visit, with the NCAA banning visits for recruits right now because of coronavirus. So on the couch with his family, he FaceTimed with Hoiberg, who sat in his office in Lincoln. Hoiberg gave a short presentation to McGowens on where he’d fit into the offense and in the program.
“He told he just liked players like me who can do a little bit of everything,” McGowens said.
Last season, McGowens shot 36% from the floor, 31% from 3 and 72% from the line. He scored 33 points in a win over Louisville as a freshman, then scored 30 a few days later.
Nebraska is likely to bring in a big man with its open scholarship. Hoiberg hinted on the radio this week that NU could potentially bring in some more “size and physicality.”
Nebraska has recently been in contact with Trey Murphy III, a 6-foot-8 transfer forward from Rice, as well as 6-foot-11 center Jeff Otchere from Stony Brook. NU could also bring in Adama Sanogo, a four-star center from New York, who in a Twitter post this week put Nebraska in his final 10 schools.