Breidenbach's rapid rise continues as freshman season nears
Wilhelm Breidenbach has been underestimated at every level of basketball he’s played, and he’s made a career of proving his doubters wrong at every opportunity.
His shaggy hair, bushy beard, and trademark goggles don’t fit the profile of a typical four-star recruit and Big Ten player. But Breidenbach immediately changes the narrative people might have about his game with a potent offensive skill set and a fearlessness to take on anyone he faces.
“I just go play basketball,” Breidenbach said. “It doesn’t really matter who’s in front of me. It could be anybody. I just go play.”
Just like he did while playing against the highest level of competition the California high school level had to offer at Santa Ana Mater Dei, the 6-foot-10 forward has wasted no time getting all of his coaches and teammates to take notice in his first few months as a Husker.
Since Nebraska started its official team practices last month, Breidenbach was vaulted up the rotation when veteran Derrick Walker was held out with an illness. Running with NU’s projected starting unit, Breidenbach showed precisely why head coach Fred Hoiberg made him a priority target back in the summer of 2019.
“When Derrick was out for that stretch, I was playing Wilhelm with that first group, and he was phenomenal. Absolutely phenomenal,” Hoiberg said. “He’s a guy that can play multiple positions on the floor. He can play both front-court spots.
“The thing about Wilhelm; you’re never going to have to worry about what he gives you. He plays with incredible effort and intensity; he gets hacked, fouled, and they don’t call it, and he is sprinting back the other way and getting ready to defend on the other end. Normally with younger players, you have to teach them through those moments. But Wilhelm is just one of those guys that comes in and you know what you’re going to get from him…
“His makeup is what makes him special. He has a very unique skill set for a guy that’s 6-foot-10 that can make shots and can pass and make plays like he can.”
Breidenbach arrived on campus in June with a ready-made Big Ten mentality. But at roughly 210 pounds, it was clear he had plenty of work to do to get his body ready for the physicality of the high-major level.
Over the past four months, Breidenbach has added around 17 pounds of muscle and is now up to 227 pounds. Hoiberg said that while he still may look a little “wiry,” Breidenbach had made significant gains in his overall strength and explosiveness.
As a result, Hoiberg said Breidenbach had already established himself as a primary piece of Nebraska’s rotation going into his first season. He might not be ready to supplant Walker or Lat Mayen in the starting lineup just yet, but he’ll likely be one of the top front-court options off the bench to open the year.
Given his current trajectory, Breidenbach’s role should only continue to skyrocket. In the meantime, his plan is to keep on maximizing every chance that comes his way.
“I’ll take whatever opportunity I can get,” Breidenbach said. “What I need to do to get on the floor and help the team win is what I’ll do. I’ve said that from the beginning, and that hasn’t changed.”