UNO basketball

The Mavericks' men's team graduated their top two scorers, but will return JT Gibson, KJ Robinson and Matt Pile.

Derrin Hansen looked at the two players seated next to him at Tuesday’s UNO basketball media day and said he wished both could play for him for 14 years.

Hansen, of course, knows those two returning starters, senior JT Gibson and junior Matt Pile, can’t do that. But Gibson and Pile are eager to again challenge for the top spot in the Summit League.

“We definitely have enough talent. That won’t be a problem,” Pile said.

Gibson (12.9 points per game) and Pile (11.2) each averaged double figures last season, as did returning guard KJ Robinson (11.1). But the Mavericks lost their top two scorers in all-conference players Zach Jackson and Mitch Hahn — they started every game and combined to average 31.7 points.

Hansen, entering his 15th year as UNO’s head coach, says this year’s roster has the ability to pick up where it left off.

“It’s going to be a little bit of everybody,” Hansen said of where that scoring will come from. “People always say, ‘How are you going to replace him? How are you going to replace him?’ Well, we’re not the NBA. I don’t get Tim Duncan for 16 years. You replace people all the time. That’s just what we do. My assistants do a great job of replacing good players with good players.”

The Mavs also have six newcomers, including sophomore transfers Marlon Ruffin and Marco Smith.

Hansen also expects Papillion-La Vista grad Ayo Akinwole and Burke’s Wanjang Tut to fill bigger roles this season. Akinwole averaged 5.0 points and 1.7 assists as a sophomore, but Tut averaged 3.8 points and 2.3 rebounds as a redshirt freshman.

“We’re just trying to blend everyone together right now,” Hansen said.

UNO, which has finished in the top three of the Summit in three of the past four years, is picked to finish fourth this season. The Mavericks, who will have a scrimmage on Friday, open their season Nov. 5 at Wichita State.

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Gene covers a variety of sports beats for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @geneOWH. Phone: 402-444-1038.

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