The stakes are getting bigger at UNO, but that doesn't mean the Mavericks aren't afraid to go a little smaller.
Devin Patterson is expected to complete the paperwork necessary to join the UNO program on Tuesday. The 5-foot-11 point guard from New Mexico Junior College would likely compete for playing time on a team that sometimes had up to four players 6-3 or smaller on the floor last season in a surprisingly successful first trip through the Summit League.
Wings Justin Simmons and Alex Phillips, both 6-3, and CJ Carter, at 6-foot, all started last season. The Mavs often played 6-1 freshman Marcus Tyus and 6-1 junior Caleb Steffensmeier, too, in undersized combinations.
UNO coach Derrin Hansen, unable to comment specifically on incoming recruits until a signed letter of intent is returned, said he isn't necessarily trying to put teams on the floor that are shorter than your average Division I team.
“We chose to go small at times, but we still have faith in guys like Simon Krych, Mike Rostampour and Matt Hagerbaumer,” Hansen said. “We're flexible enough that we could play small depending upon our opponent.”
Krych, 6-8, played sparingly during his redshirt freshman season. Rostampour, 6-8, redshirted as a walk-on junior transfer from Division II St. Cloud State. Hagerbaumer, 6-7, played effective but limited minutes as UNO's only true inside player behind 6-8 John Karhoff.
Even Karhoff, a 6-8 senior-to-be, has a nicely evolved perimeter game in addition to supplying the Mavs with their primary post presence.
He was often the only big man on the floor.
“We're still trying to bring a front-line guy,” Hansen said. “My guess right now is that it would be a transfer of some sort. I wouldn't rule out anything, but we're leaning towards that.”
UNO signed two high school players in the fall signing period — 6-8 forward Rylan Murry of West Branch, Iowa, and 6-5 wing Nick Billingsley of Omaha Central.
Murry is potentially a “stretch 4,” a perimeter-oriented power forward like departing senior starter Alex Welhouse, who made a team-high 49 3-pointers.
Billingsley would give the Mavs yet another perimeter-oriented player.
Assuming Patterson and another player come on board, UNO would have filled its allotment of 13 scholarship players.
Besides Welhouse, backup point guard Jacques Coleman and non-scholarship wing Tyler Egli were the Mavs' other seniors last season.
UNO returns its top three scorers in Simmons (16.7 points per game), Karhoff (12.0) and Carter (9.7), and seven of its top eight from a team that was 11-20 overall but went 6-10 for sixth in the Summit.
How quickly Billingsley or Murry can blend in over the summer and through the fall will help determine their roles.
“Both those guys, if they're in our top rotation, would play,” Hansen said. “If they're not, I don't think a redshirt would hurt either one of them. We return a lot of guys and they knew that. They both have good futures. When their future starts just kind of depends right now.”
UNO considered redshirting Tyus last season up until the first game of the season. He wound up averaging 6.0 points in only 17.1 minutes per game.
“It's so early and there are so many factors, so you just don't have any idea at this point,” Hansen said. “Some guys you recruit and you think they're definitely going to redshirt, then they pick things up and you figure out you have to play them. Others you recruit thinking they're ready to play and other factors pop up and you end up redshirting them.”
UNO recruited at tournaments last weekend in Minneapolis and Ames, Iowa, and will be in the Kansas City area this weekend. Much of that recruiting is focused on recruits beyond this cycle, but Hansen is still interested in signing a player during the current period.
“We have a whole month left, and we'd like to do something, but we're not going to sign a guy just to sign a guy,” he said.
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