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November 6, 2008

Thursday hoops notebook: Playing through pain

As if the Huskers didn't have enough problems trying to fill the void in the post left by Aleks Maric this season, injuries to two of their veteran big men have made the task that much harder.

With Chris Balham and redshirt sophomore Alex Chapman both recovering from knee surgeries, the Huskers haven't been able work two of their better post players in practice as much as they might like.

Balham has practiced since the start of fall practice, but he's still nursing the right knee he has surgery on during the spring. As a result, he has been limited in how long he can practice before his knee starts to flare up.

Head coach Doc Sadler said Balham is listed as day-to-day, though Sadler said he plans to start Balham in their season-opening exhibition game against Chadron State on Friday night.

"When you've got a situation like he's got where he just wasn't blessed with good knees, you just play it day-to-day," Sadler said.

Balham said he feels like he can go as long as Sadler asks him, and that despite his knee still not at 100 percent, he is willing to play through the pain.

"It's not up to me, it's up to Coach," Balham said. "If he puts me for 30 minutes, I'll play 30 minutes."

Could his knee really handle 30 minutes?

"Oh yeah," he said. "I'm tougher than that."

As for Chapman, Sadler said he just completed his longest practice of the year on Thursday, though he was still unable to make it through the entire session.

Sadler said Chapman would not play on Friday, and that he still has a long way to go in his recovery and preparation for the season in practice before he can expect to contribute in games.

"I don't know, he hasn't been out there, so I can't give you an answer on him," Sadler said. "He's got to get out there. He's not going to feel good everyday, so whenever he decides that he can get out there, than he'll be out there."

Sadler reveals initial starting five

Following Thursday's practice, Sadler revealed what he expected would be Nebraska's starting five for Friday night's game versus Chadron State.

Junior point guard Sek Henry, senior shooting guard Steve Harley, guard , senior guard Ade Dagunduro, senior forward Ryan Anderson and Balham currently make up the Huskers' starting five.

While those were the five he expected to start Friday, he said there's still a chance things could change with the next 24 hours before tip-off.

Harley's new look

Players and coaches alike had to do a double take on Monday when Harley showed up for practice.

For the past three years, Harley had grown his hair out into his trademark dreadlocks that reached as far down as the middle of his back. Over the weekend, he apparently found a barber, as he now sports a short Mohawk.

"He just showed up Saturday with a haircut," Sadler said. "First time in three years, I guess he'd never found a barber here. Now that he's got a barber I guess he'll get his hair cut."

Harley said he decided to go for the new look just on a whim, though he admitted the dreadlocks did weigh down his head just a bit.

"I don't know, I was just ready to cut it," he said. "I feel much lighter right now."

Sadler was asked if Harley's trip to the barber would inspire fellow guard Cookie Miller to follow his lead. Miller currently sports about a 2-inch long afro.

"You see Cookie wants to be taller," Sadler said. "He's 5-3 with his hair cut short, and he's 5-5 with a 2-inch 'fro. Maybe he's going to get about an 8-inch 'fro and he'll be close to 6-foot."

NOTE:

Freshman guard Eshaunte Jones did not practice on Friday because he was attending the funeral for his grandfather, who passed away earlier this week. Sadler said Jones would return to the team on Friday.



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