The Nebraska basketball team was expecting to be shorthanded when it tipped off the Big Ten conference tournament on Wednesday. It turns out head coach Fred Hoiberg is getting some reinforcements from a rather unusual place. Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald posted on Twitter Tuesday afternoon that the university announced two Cornhuskers football players would be joining the Nebrasketball roster for the duration of its stay in the tourney.
Noah Vedral and Brant Banks will accompany the team to the Big Ten tourney and have been cleared to play right away, should they be needed. Vedral is officially listed as a guard and Banks is listed as a six-foot-seven-inch, 300-pound forward. Both of them played basketball in high school, though it's a safe bet neither has played anything other than pickup games for quite a while now.
Vedral last shot hoops for Bishop Neumann in Wahoo, Nebraska, while Banks, according to MaxPreps, averaged 11.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per contest for Houston-based Westbury Christian. While it's hard to imagine Banks is getting up and down the court all that well at 300 pounds, the Huskers could use a little more help pushing bodies around down low.
The surprise additions come because the Nebraska basketball team was expected to be sporting just a seven-man roster for the tournament-opening game against Indiana and any contest they might play after that, should they win.
Nebraska is short-handed because they are dealing with the indefinite suspension of two of their best players. Dachon Burke and Cam Mack were suspended before the Huskers' final regular-season game against Minnesota. On Tuesday morning, Hoiberg announced they had not traveled with their teammates to the Big Ten tournament.
The head coach told the media Burke was staying behind in Lincoln to study and work toward his graduation -- he's on pace to do that this spring -- and Mack was back in his native Texas dealing with a "personal matter."
When the Cornhuskers attempted to play with that seven-man roster against the Golden Gophers, it led to a 32-point loss -- one point shy of Hoiberg's biggest ever loss -- and a 16th straight win for Minnesota. After the grind of a 31-game season, it appears Hoiberg is trying to make sure Nebraska doesn't collapse from exhaustion.
The additions of Vedral and Banks are especially interesting considering the timing of all of this, as the Cornhuskers just kicked off their spring football practices. Normally, two players missing a day or two of practices wouldn't be that big a deal, but on Monday, head coach Scott Frost announced starting quarterback Adrian Martinez would be wearing the green "no contact" jersey all spring. In addition to that, he announced an open competition for the starting quarterback, of which Vedral is a contender.
The Nebraska basketball team, complete with the two football players, will tip off its first-round tournament game against the Indiana Hoosiers Wednesday night at 7:25 p.m. CDT.