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January 30, 2010The first question about freshman guard Christian Standhardinger came about three minutes into Nebraska head coach Doc Sadler's media session prior to Friday's practice.
As soon as the Munich, Germany, native's name came up, Sadler took a deep breath, rolled his eyes and seemingly prepared himself to let something off his chest he'd been holding back since Standhardinger became eligible to play at the start of Big 12 Conference play.
Though Standhardinger has been decent in his first four games as a Husker, apparently the attention he's garnered since becoming eligible to play after sitting out the entire non-conference schedule because of an NCAA ruling has gotten a little much for Sadler's liking.
In Wednesday night's loss to Colorado, Standhardinger came off the bench to score a team-high 14 points. However, Sadler dismissed the performance on Thursday because it came at a point where it had little impact on the game's outcome.
Standhardinger has been mostly unavailable to media since the Huskers' loss to Texas A&M in their Big 12 opener, and his playing time has been limited the past five games because Sadler said he hadn't been living up to the team's expectations.
As Nebraska tries to snap its five-game losing streak and pick up its first league win tonight against Oklahoma at 7 p.m. at the Devaney Center, Sadler clarified his position on his heralded freshman and where exactly he stands with the Huskers as far as the rest of the season goes.
"Let's make something clear first, it's not the effort," Sadler said. "That's not why I'm disappointed in him. He's played four games. Christian is Christian. He ain't no different than any other freshman. If we were to put Matt Karn in there right now, he would struggle. It's going to take playing time. When is he going to get that playing time? I don't know, but when he does get it, he ain't no different than anybody else. He better give us something positive, or we've got to go in another direction.
Sadler went on to compare Standhardinger's situation to a couple of other former incoming foreign freshmen the past two seasons who received the same hype before ever actually proving their abilities on the court.
Last season it was 6-11 center Jorge Brian Diaz, who was supposed to change the entire dynamic of Nebraska's roster, as the Huskers didn't have a player taller than 6-8 on their active roster. Instead, Diaz opted to redshirt the season because he felt he wasn't ready for Division I basketball yet.
Two years ago, the same thing happened with 6-10 German center Christopher Niemann, who has yet to play a single minute for NU after having to sit out the 2008-09 season because of the same NCAA ruling as Standhardinger and then suffering back-to-back ACL injuries to his knee.
Sadler said he appreciated the excitement Nebraska's media and fan base have given the program because of the players, but hoped people would realize that all of them joined the program no differently than any other incoming freshmen on their respective rosters.
While they might gain their share of hype and excitement because of their situations, all of them still had to deal with the growing pains of being a freshman in the Big 12.
"I think the beauty of this program is that - and I really believe this - everybody wants us to do really well, and they're wanting somebody they can hang their hat on," Sadler said. "That's where it's at. Last year, everybody talked about how small we were, and then Brian comes in and because he's tall - it didn't matter if he's good or not, it's just because he was tall. I think a lot of it has to do with not being here. Nobody knows anything about these guys.
"It's like anything else, the unknown kind of leads you out there."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
While Nebraska certainly has plenty of its own issues to deal with at the moment, Oklahoma isn't exactly off to a dream season either. At just 12-8 overall and 3-3 in the Big 12, the Sooners have had a fairly significant drop off since losing All-American Blake Griffin to the NBA. Not only that, two players who were supposed to help carry the post-Griffin Sooners this season have already missed time this season and are questionable for tonight's game. Guards Tony Crocker and Willie Warren are both dealing with ankle injuries and missed Wednesday's game against Iowa State. Keep an eye on their status tonight, as having those two on the bench would be a huge plus for the Huskers' chances.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE HUSKERS:
Senior guard Ryan Anderson continues to add his name to Nebraska's career record books, as he just broke the 200-assist mark for his career against Colorado, and his 202 career assists now rank 23rd on NU's all-time list. Anderson is also just 23 points away from becoming the 25th Husker to break the 1,000-point scoring mark and recently surpassed 500 career rebounds against Iowa State.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE SOONERS:
With Crocker and Warren out of the lineup, the Sooners needed somebody to step up and fill the offensive void left behind. That's where point guard Tommy Mason-Griffin came in, as he scored a career-best 38 points on 13-of-21 shooting from the field including five 3-pointers to knock off the Cyclones. Mason-Griffin comes into tonight's game averaging 12.9 points per game, which now ranks second on the team behind Warren.