Earlier this summer, Nebraska basketball received a punch straight to the gut. After just one season on the court, forward Andrew White announced that he would be transferring from the program.
BREAKING: Nebraska's Andrew White has requested his release and intends to be a grad transfer, source told @CBSSports. Immediately eligible.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) June 25, 2016
White might not have the national profile of other Big Ten players like Nigel Hayes or Melo Trimble, but even so, he was a key contributor for the Huskers last year. All told, he averaged an impressive 16.6 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game while shooting 41.2 percent from three-point range.
To put these numbers in perspective, just compare them to elsewhere around the Big Ten and on Nebraska’s roster. White not only led the Huskers in scoring last year, but he was also set to be the No. 2 returning scorer in the conference before he decided to depart.
Just take a look at how White compares to the rest of Nebraska’s roster:
(Stats via Sports Reference).
It’s pretty easy to see why White’s departure is a significant one for Nebraska. In fact, as this author wrote at the time, this could be a devastating blow for a Huskers team trying to get back on track. After all, Nebraska only went 16-18 (.471) last year and the program hasn’t made the postseason in either of the last two seasons.
As Nebraska tries to get its footing, the carpet’s been pulled out from under the Cornhuskers.
Not exactly a pretty picture.
But what about the other side of things?
Everybody knows that White is a big loss, but is it possible to replace him? Or even to replace a good hunk of his production? Sure, it won’t be easy, but it has to be possible, right?
Well, generally speaking, the answer is yes. Replacing White’s production is possible.
After all, every player on Nebraska’s roster was a pretty big prospect at some point. These are guys that can play. Maybe not at White’s level, but guys develop and surprise all the time. For example, just take a look at Big Ten players like Matt Costello and Ethan Happ last year. Both took major steps forward despite underwhelming preseason projections.
Of course, a few Huskers stand out as potential breakout players. To start, Louisville transfer Anton Gill should be set to take a leadership role for Nebraska this season. However, Gill will probably spend most of his time in the backcourt, so he’s not exactly a perfect replacement for White’s contributions on the wing.
Luckily, there are a few more options outside of Gill. Not only did the Huskers add JUCO transfer Evan Taylor, but the program also added two 2016 forwards in Jeriah Horne and Isaiah Roby. The freshmen are probably too raw to expect too much for this year, but if Taylor can slide into a starting role, it’s reasonable to think the two freshmen can at least provide some productive bench minutes.
Furthermore, Nebraska also brings back an intriguing group of forwards that could play an impact. Players like Nick Fuller, (1.8 PPG) Jack McVeigh (4.8 PPG), and Ed Morrow (4.1 PPG) might not have been impressive last year, but all three were underclassmen that should improve. If at least one can take a step forward, that could provide some real depth.
All told, there’s not a single player on Nebraska’s roster that can replace White alone. Simply put, nobody can replicate his skillset and experience, at least on paper. However, despite these concerns, there are actually a handful of options that could address his departure. If even a few newcomers can provide bench minutes and a player can step into a starting role, things don’t look that bad.
Whether Nebraska can improve on last year’s mixed results is still up for debate, but with a young and talented wing group, perhaps it’s not time to panic about next season quite yet.