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April 3, 2012

Diaz leaves program, Johnson joins NU staff

The changes to Nebraska's basketball program under new head coach Tim Miles continued on Tuesday, as the Huskers saw both a key player leave and a new assistant coach join the staff.

A Nebraska spokesman confirmed that Husker center Jorge Brian Diaz would not return for his senior season, and that Northern Iowa assistant Ben Johnson has been added as to Miles' coaching staff.

Diaz's departure doesn't come as much of a surprise, as the 6-11 native of Puerto Rico has been hampered by chronic foot problems for the past two seasons.

It's been reported that Diaz will return to Puerto Rico and will look to pursue a professional career overseas.

While his foot issues sidelined him for 14 games last season, most of which coming in Big Ten Conference play, there was little arguing that Nebraska was a much different team with Diaz in the lineup.

He averaged 8.6 points and 4.3 rebounds in 16 games, and his 31 blocks last year were 19 more than any other Husker on the roster. Diaz started 65 of his 81 career games at Nebraska and averaged 9.4 points and 4.2 rebounds.

The other big news of the day as the hiring of Johnson, who comes to NU after four seasons as an assistant at Northern Iowa under head coach Ben Jacobson. Johnson also spent two seasons as an assistant at Texas-Pan American and one season as a graduate assistant at Dayton.

As a player, Johnson was a four-year starter at both Northwestern as a freshman and sophomore and Minnesota as a junior and senior, and was a 1,200-point scorer by the end of his career.

Johnson, 31, brings a wealth of recruiting connections in both Iowa and Minnesota, particularly in his native Minneapolis. He was an All-American guard at DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis and led his team to two state championships.

Johnson joins assistant Ron Coleman and director of operations Jayden Olson, who both followed Miles to Nebraska from Colorado State.

Miles now has just one full-time assistant position left to fill.

It's also been reported that Nebraska is looking for a medical scholarship for junior center Christopher Niemann, who's career has also been plagued with knee injuries.

If the NCAA approves Niemann's medical scholarship, he remain on scholarship but would no longer play nor count against NU's 13 scholarship limit.

The NU spokesman also confirmed that junior walk-on forward Mike Fox would also not be back next season. Fox is said to plan on focusing on his student teaching.

Fox had his most productive season as a Husker last year, as he played in 23 games and averaged 1.3 points and 9.7 minutes per outing.

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