Wilhelm Breidenbach surprising in more ways than one at Nebraska
Trey McGowens admits he rushed to judge Wilhelm Breidenbach when they first took the Nebraska basketball practice court together last month.
The freshman forward out of Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei has never really looked the part of an elite prospect, with his lanky frame, shaggy haircut, and beard, and, of course, his signature sports “goggles” he wears on the floor.
But once the Huskers got going with their summer workouts, he quickly put those misconceptions to bed.
“Wil definitely surprised me,” McGowens said with a laugh. “When I thought of the goggles, I was like, ‘Ahhhh…’ But no, Wil can play. He’s versatile, and he can shoot it as well… He’s in the right place at the right time.”
Breidenbach may not seem like the typical Rivals150 recruit, but his play at prep power Mater Dei proved he belonged in the national conversation.
Rated as high as a four-star and top-70 recruit by various recruiting services, Breidenbach averaged 15.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game this past season as a senior. He also shot nearly 40 percent from 3-point range.
Playing alongside several other top-level prospects during his high school career, Breidenbach made his name as a versatile big who prioritized selfless, winning plays over individual statistics.
Junior forward Lat Mayen said he too was immediately surprised with Breidenbach’s game, especially his high basketball IQ on both ends of the floor.
“Wil’s got a great feel for the game,” Mayen said. “He’s pretty much always doing the right thing, always doing what he needs to do in the moment. He can shoot the ball, he’s athletic, and he can run the floor too. For sure, he caught me by surprise too. But he’s definitely special.”
This Monday was the first time Breidenbach was able to go live with the rest of the team during summer workouts, as he’s still recovering from a torn MCL that ended his senior season after 21 games.
While he’s got a lot of catching up to do in his strength and conditioning, Breidenbach said his knee had rehabbed precisely how he had hoped thus far, and it likely would not require surgery.
“Where I’ve kind of always been at is to avoid surgery,” Breidenbach said. “I’m out there able to play a little bit, go up and down (the court), so I’m pretty close to being back to full health. So it’s just keep building and strengthening my knee to where it’s supposed to be and to avoid more injury.
The offseason got even better for Breidenbach and Nebraska. Even before his injury, Breidenbach had started seeing a back specialist to help him straighten out a hunch in his shoulders that’d he had most of his life.
In just a few months, he was able to improve his posture and stand up straighter. Breidenbach arrived at Nebraska listed at 6-foot-9, 210 pounds. When the team took official measurements, he measured in at 6-10.5.
When Breidenbach makes his official Husker debut this fall, he’ll be taller, stronger, and healthier than ever going into his first college season.
One thing that will remain the same, however, will be his trademark goggles.
“It’s kind of what I do now,” Breidenbach said. “It’s definitely a defining feature, so whatever works.”