LINCOLN — No more limping, no more grimacing, no more worries about attacking the basket.
Nebraska senior Dylan Talley is finally healed from a long-term thigh injury and ready to provide some offensive direction when the Huskers open their 117th season of men's basketball at 6 p.m. Sunday against Southern.
“I'm in the best shape of my career,” said the 6-foot-5 wing from Camden, N.J. “I'm all fixed up. I haven't had any problems.”
Last season, Talley essentially couldn't work out — beyond participating in practice — after taking a knee to the thigh in a late November game against South Dakota State.
That was a re-injury of an area damaged two times before in his college career. The first came as a freshman at Binghamton University. The second came at Blinn (Texas) Junior College, about a week before he transferred to Nebraska.
The ugly calcium deposit that collected on Talley's thigh led Husker coaches to consider shutting him down for the season and seeking a medical redshirt.
He eventually missed five games, and never really got settled. One of his best games was 10 points and nine rebounds in NU's 70-69 upset of No. 11 Indiana.
“When I came back,” Talley said, “I never was in the same shape.”
Simply getting in shape was Talley's first goal this season. He got to know strength and conditioning coach Tim Wilson well.
“I put in a lot of work with Coach Wilson,” Talley said. “I was here all the summer sessions. I didn't go home.”
Now, Talley wants to get the Husker offense rolling. The team's leading returning scorer at 8.9 points a game and one of just three seniors knows he'll be counted on.
“I'm definitely going to have to score, but we want to spread it around,” he said. “That's my job as a senior leader.”
First-year coach Tim Miles is trying to install a motion offense that involves reading screens and reacting accordingly, instead of set plays on every possession.
“Last year, our offense was way more strict,” Talley said. “This year, we get a lot more freedom. Coach's big saying is that 'players are going to make plays.' It's a real fun system to play in so far.”
Especially for a guy like Talley with an itchy trigger finger.
“I feel it suits me perfect,” he said. “And a lot of my teammates feel that way. It's fun to run once you get the hang of it. But it can be pretty challenging at first.”
Talley had a previous connection to Miles.
“He recruited me out of junior college,” Talley said. “I was big on Colorado State and big on him. He's got a great personality.
“Coach Miles is real intense. But he's also a funny coach, too. He keeps us laughing, but he makes sure we compete as hard as we can.”
A sense of humor will serve Nebraska well this season. The Huskers were a near-unanimous pick to finish last in the Big Ten.
“We've got some challenges, with a new coach and the first year of a system,” Talley said. “We're a young team, but we can't make that as an excuse. For us seniors, it's our last go-round no matter what.”
Nebraska's opening opponent won't provide a cakewalk.
Southern, out of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, lost Friday night to Iowa State 84-59. But the Jaguars led by 11 points in the first half and were down by just two at halftime.
Iowa State romped over Nebraska in a private scrimmage two weeks ago.
“Southern is a team that will play fast and press and change defenses — all the things that will make it difficult for us,” Miles said. “That's great. We're just working on our stuff, man, zone or otherwise.”
Ľ NOTES: Nebraska freshman Shavon Shields (elbow) is out. All other Huskers are healthy. ... Tickets are available for as low as $5. This game is Military Appreciation Day. Free upper-bench seats are available to those with military ID.
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