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Freshman point guard off to a good start at Nebraska

Tim Miles

Nebraska coach Tim Miles, center, talks to his team during practice for the NCAA college basketball tournament in San Antonio, Thursday, March 20, 2014. Nebraska plays against Baylor in a second-round game on Friday. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)


After winning 19 games and making their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1998, more will be expected of Tim Miles’ Nebraska Cornhuskers in 2014-15. And rightfully so, as leading scorers Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields return to Lincoln to lead the way for a group that has the talent needed to factor into the Big Ten race. However, in order to do this the Huskers have to get better offensively when it comes to both assists and efficiency.

In 2013-14 Nebraska averaged just 9.5 assists per game, a figure that ranked dead last in the Big Ten. Add in the fact that the Huskers were ranked eleventh in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio and tenth in offensive efficiency, and it’s clear that despite return two of the Big Ten’s better offensive weapons there’s room for growth on that end of the floor.

One player who has the potential to help Nebraska in this regard is freshman point guard Tarin Smith, who spent the last two years running the point for legendary coach Bob Hurley Sr. at St. Anthony HS in Jersey City, New Jersey. A first-team all-state selection after averaging 15 points and four assists per game as a senior, Smith has already grabbed the attention of his new coaches and teammates according to Brian Rosenthal of the Lincoln Journal-Star.

Remember Benny Parker? Last season’s fan favorite and spark off the bench who earned the nickname “Energizer Benny” because of his relentless on-ball defense?

Yeah, Smith has held his own, and sometimes more, against Parker.

“Benny is one of the best defenders we have, and he gets up into (Smith) every time, but he handles it better than any freshman, I think, would handle pressure against Benny Parker,” Nebraska guard Terran Petteway said.

“I like how Tarin Smith handles the rock. He’s a real point guard. He can get into the lane, dish out and his shot is coming along well. And he’s sneaky athletic. He will dunk on you. I didn’t think he had that much hops, but he can get up if he wants to.”

Just one player averaged two assists per game last season, and that was rising sophomore Tai Webster. Webster was able to gain invaluable experience this summer playing with New Zealand’s national team at the FIBA Basketball World Cup, and he’s expected to take a step forward for Nebraska this season. Having multiple options at the point would certainly benefit Nebraska as it looks to make a run at Big Ten preseason favorite Wisconsin, and that’s where Smith comes into play.

Petteway and Shields will once again lead the way offensively. If players such as Webster and Smith can step forward to make things easier for those two, ultimately the entire team will reap the rewards.

Follow @raphiellej