Photo by Nate Olsen/Nebraska Communications

Palmer Returns with NCAA in Mind

By Brian Rosenthal

Never mind what the NBA scouts told James Palmer Jr. about his readiness for professional basketball.

Palmer went with his “gut feeling” in deciding to return for his senior season with the Nebraska men’s basketball team.

“It wasn’t by what they said or what they didn’t say,” Palmer said of scouts from several NBA teams who watched him firsthand in workouts this spring. “It’s just that I wanted to come back and have a great season in my last season with Nebraska.”

Palmer, a 6-foot-6 guard, has one goal in mind, and one goal only.

“Make the NCAA Tournament,” Palmer said. “That’s it. That’s all. To make the NCAA Tournament.”

Nebraska came oh-so-close to securing an at-large bid to the 68-team NCAA Tournament last season after finishing fourth in the Big Ten Conference with a 13-5 record. But the Huskers fell short, instead participating in the National Invitational Tournament and finishing with a 22-11 overall record.

How far prognosticators have the Huskers going in 2018-19, the seventh season under coach Tim Miles, largely depended on whether a couple of players would return for their senior seasons.

Palmer and forward Isaac Copeland Jr. a Georgetown transfer, both declared for the NBA Draft, mostly to work out in front of NBA scouts and get valuable feedback about what areas of their game they need to improve upon, and if they stood a reasonable chance of being drafted in June.

In not hiring an agent, they have until Wednesday to withdraw from the draft and maintain their collegiate status.

Palmer is back. Now, we await word from Copeland.

“That’s his own decision, if he wants to come back or stay (in the draft),” Palmer said of Copeland, “but it would definitely be great to have him back.”

Palmer, a Maryland native and Miami transfer, averaged a team-best 17.2 points last season, his first in competition for Nebraska after sitting out a season. He also averaged 4.4 rebounds and three assists while attempting a Big Ten-best 221 free-throws, and making 73.8 percent of them.

“I’m proud of James and I’m certainly super-fired up that he’s coming back,” Miles said. “It’s going to be great.”

Copeland was second on the team in scoring with 12.9 points per game and second in rebounding with 6.1 boards per game, only behind rising junior Isaiah Roby. His 33 blocked shots were also second on the team to Roby.

Should Copeland return, that would mean Nebraska returns its top four scorers from a team that went undefeated in home Big Ten Conference games last season.

“I’m glad to finally get the decision over with,” Palmer said, “and get focused on next season.”

Reach Brian at brosenthal@huskers.com or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.

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