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August 2, 2010

Webster brings much to the table for Huskers

The first time Tracy Webster met Nebraska basketball coach Doc Sadler was back when Webster was leading the way for Thorton (Ill.) High School more than 20 years ago.

Though Sadler, then an assistant at Chicago State, couldn't recruit Webster away from Wisconsin, he was finally able to get him on his team eventually. On Monday, Webster took the court for the first time as a member of Sadler's coaching staff.

After the departure of assistant Phil Matthews to UCLA earlier this offseason, the Huskers officially announced Webster as the newest member of their staff when the team began its preparations for a four-game trip to Nassau, Bahamas, on Aug. 13-21.

"It's been a while since I've been on a basketball court, but I'm definitely excited about being here on Coach Sadler's staff and being able to help the players get better and win some games," Webster said.

Webster, who was an all-conference guard at Wisconsin, brings a wide variety of coaching experience to Lincoln. He's already coached at six different schools in five different conferences, and most recently was an assistant at DePaul.

Though he served as an assistant most of the year, he eventually took over as the Blue Demons' interim head coach for the latter portion of the season after Jerry Wainwright was let go midseason.

Before that, he held assistant positions at Kentucky under former coach Billy Gillispie (2007-09), Illinois ('04-'07), Purdue ('03-'04), Ball State ('01-'03) and Wisconsin-Parkside (1998-'01).

Considering his experience as player, coach and recruiter in the Big Ten, his addition to the staff certainly makes sense as Nebraska prepares to join the conference in 2011. For now though, Webster is content on simply helping out any way he can.

"Right now, I try to have a little bit of everything," Webster said. "Whether it's Big Ten, Big 12 or whatever, I definitely want to try to stay in any area I've been in. I've been at a lot of different schools, and I think being all around the country can definitely help."

Webster becomes the second new assistant to join the staff this offseason after Wes Flanigan was hired back in May. Flanigan replaces Walter Roese, who left to take an assistant job at Hawaii.

There was also another in-house change to the staff on Monday, as former director of operations Chris Croft was promoted to assistant coach. He replaces David Anwar, who was reassigned to fill Croft's spot as director of operations.

Sadler said bringing in three new coaches will only help his team by adding three new voices and viewpoints that could help turn around the Huskers' recent struggles.

"The thing you always try to do is bring in that have a different opinion on some things and have different ideas," Sadler said. "I think you'll see some of those pretty quick. I've known Tracy and Wes both for 20 years. I've been impressed with what they've done, and those were the guys that I kind of tried to go out and talk to and see if they would be interested (in coming to Nebraska). Thankfully they were, and they're going to be great additions."

Around the rim

***Nebraska will have 10 practice to prepare for their trip to the Bahamas, where they will play four games against area professional teams. Sadler said the focus of the trip would primarily revolve on getting the team back on the court in a competitive environment, but also said he hoped the trip would provide a chance to build team chemistry.

***Junior college transfer Caleb Walker had his first official practice as a Husker on Monday, and he'll make his competitive debut during the Bahamas trip. In addition, junior Toney McCray and sophomore Christopher Niemann will return to live action for the first time since missing all of last season with injuries.

***While Niemann was finally able to get back on the court Monday after tearing his ACL for the second time, Sadler said he would be careful with how much he worked the 6-foot-10 center during the next 10 practices. Sadler said he planned to limit Niemann to roughly one hour of practice time for now.

***Sadler said he and his new staff would try out some different approaches on both ends of the court during the trip, including working on some new zone defenses. He said the additional games and practices allow to try out some new things that the team otherwise wouldn't have time for during the season.


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