LINCOLN — Practice never truly makes perfect, but it sure has helped Nebraska's Shavon Shields get better.
The 6-foot-6 freshman from Olathe, Kan., recently polished his game well enough to earn Big Ten rookie of the week honors Monday ahead of Tuesday's home matchup against Illinois (14-5, 1-4).
Last week, in a home loss to Purdue, Shields had a career-high 18 points and eight rebounds. In a win at Penn State, the son of former Husker football All-American Will Shields produced another career high — 29 points — with six rebounds and three steals.
Shields, who won't turn 19 until June, had no chance to post such numbers earlier this season.
Injuries took care of that.
First, he suffered a ruptured bursa sac in his elbow. After an infection developed, he needed surgery that sidelined him for three weeks. When finally cleared to play, he jammed his wrist and missed more time.
Overall, Shields sat out five of NU's first six games, and was sidelined for a lot of drill work in October and November.
“It was just one thing after another for him,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said Monday. “Finally, in the last month, he's had consistent practice, and I think that's showing.
“He's coming out and playing just a little better every game. And last week he was freshman of the week in the Big Ten, and probably could have been player of the week.”
Shields said he learned of his honor when some friends texted him Monday morning.
“It's cool,” he said. “But big picture we need to start winning a couple of games in the Big Ten.”
Putting injuries behind him will help Shields try to help Nebraska (10-9, 1-5).
“My confidence was really lacking early,” he said. “It was just injury after injury after injury.”
Miles noticed the downtime was wearing on Shields mentally, so he met with him individually after the Big Ten opener at Ohio State.
“I was over-thinking things,” Shields said. “Offensively and defensively, I was just kind of 'there.'
“He said, 'I believe in you,' and things like that, and that I need to keep with it and get confident and start attacking everything you do.”
In high school, Shields scored 1,068 points in three seasons at Olathe Northwest, averaging about 15 points a game.
Miles, who was hired in March and didn't recruit Shields, said he didn't know how much of a point-producer he could be.
“You never know how freshmen are going to come out and if they are going to be able to score,” the coach said. “He's done it in a variety of ways — made some 3s, found a way to get fouled, makes floaters, scores inside a little. He's really done a great job for us.”
ĽNOTES: Brandon Ubel suffered no ill effects to his injured elbow after playing 31 minutes at Penn State. ... The last time Nebraska had a conference rookie of the year was Toney McCray in the Big 12 in the 2008-09 season. ... Tickets are available for as little as $10.
Contact the writer: