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February 16, 2012In terms of numbers, particularly wins and losses, this season has been one to forget for Nebraska head coach Doc Sadler.
The Huskers are 11-13 overall and just 3-10 in Big Ten Conference play, and they have just five regular season games and the conference tournament left to not only try and end the year on some sort of high note, but to stay out of the cellar of the league standings.
Despite all the struggles his team has gone through in what was supposed to be one his most promising seasons yet at NU, Sadler can still find positives to take away from the 2011-12 campaign.
While some outside the program had written Nebraska off weeks ago, Sadler said not one player on his has given up on the team, nor will they the rest of the year.
"Their effort and their attitude," Sadler said when asked what good he could take away from this season. "I think that's probably had opportunities to be questioned, but it's only been questioned by people outside of this building. I don't think they've questioned themselves. I definitely haven't questioned it. I think for the most part they've brought it each and every day.
"It's been hard, but at the same time, that's what they're supposed to do, and that's what they're going to continue to do, is focus on what they can control. All we can control is our attitude and our effort, and if we continue to do those two things, then I still think things can happen good for this basketball team.
"As I said a month ago, the only thing that we're focusing on is doing something each and every day to make this team better. You can't control a lot of different things that go on, but we can control that. We must make sure that all of our efforts and all of our attitudes are focused on one thing, and that's to get better today. You can't worry about anything else. That's all we've got control of. If we do that, I think wins will still come for this basketball team."
While no coach or player ever wants to be in the position of having to fight to avoid a losing season, Sadler said the adversity his players have had to go through this year would only make them stronger as they continue in both their playing careers and life in general.
Though the Huskers will lose at least four seniors - all of which are currently starters - to graduation next season, they still return seven players who saw significant action this year as well as redshirts Andre Almeida and Ray Gallegos.
"Just the experience of going through it," Sadler said. "The grind of practice everyday. The grind of having to get their study hall hours in. All those things, for a young player, can only benefit them. They've had some unfortunate things happen to them, and they can learn from those things, as everybody can. Good or bad experiences, I hope people learn from them, and I think this basketball team will do the same thing."
The reality that there are only six more guaranteed games left on the schedule has slowly started to set in for Nebraska's seniors.
Senior guard Caleb Walker said this was obviously nowhere near how he envisioned his final season of college basketball would go. Even with how badly things have gone for the Huskers, Walker said the thing he was most proud of was the way he and his teammates haven't given up
"It's been a long road," Walker said. "When things like this happen, sometimes teams just quit and players stop working. I think this team, we've kept working every day. We understand what we're facing, but you can't give up on the coaching staff or on the players. I think that's what we've done. We've stayed strong together and just keep fighting.
"This is not what we expected, but you have to know what you're facing, and this is what we're facing right now. You can't run away from it."
Falling right in with what Sadler stressed about focusing only on what they can control, Walker said the goal is simple for the final five regular season games and on into the Big Ten Tournament - just win.
"We're going to try and win every one," Walker said. "At the end of the day, that's what it's about for everybody. I want to win, and I'm pretty sure everybody on this team wants to win. We have the opportunity to get another win (on Saturday), and that's what we have to do, one game at a time.
"It just seems like yesterday we were doing 40-minute workouts. Now we have five or six games left. It goes by fast, man. You have to cherish every moment. That's what I tell the young guys, you know, cherish every moment you have here and take advantage of it."