- Associated Press - Friday, January 28, 2011

LINCOLN, NEB. (AP) - Next season’s move to the Big Ten will open fresh recruiting areas for Nebraska, and coach Doc Sadler will have a new arena and practice facility to use as bait.

What won’t change is the Cornhuskers’ struggle to bring in scholarship players from close to home.

“If you look at the good teams throughout the country, most of the time it’s when they’ve got kids either from right there locally or kids from within the state that they have their real good basketball teams,” Sadler said. “That’s what we’re trying to do here.”

Sadler hasn’t had a freshman scholarship player join the program out of a Nebraska high school since he took the job in 2006. The only native to make a significant contribution under Sadler is senior Drake Beranek, who walked on in 2009 after transferring from Division II Nebraska-Kearney and was put on scholarship before this season.

It could be a couple more years before the Huskers sign a homegrown recruit because, according to the state’s top prep coaches, no current high school seniors have been pegged as high-major talent.

And if the state does have a hot prospect?

“Look out, because here comes Kansas or Texas to try to pluck that talent away,” said Jerry Meyer, national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com.

In a state that ranks 38 out of 50 with 1.8 million people, big-time recruits are few and far between.

According to STATS LLC, there are 23 Nebraskans on Division I rosters this season, ranking 37th among the states and District of Columbia. That figure includes scholarship players and walk-ons.

There are seven Nebraskans on rosters of BCS-level schools, but only Beranek (Ravenna), Minnesota’s Elliott Eliason (Chadron) and Texas’ Matt Hill (Lincoln) are on scholarship. The Huskers’ key players come from places such as Pennsylvania, Texas, Kansas, Indiana, California, Puerto Rico and Brazil.

Other Big 12 teams, with the exception of those in Texas, also must go out of state to find most of their scholarship players.

Big Ten teams have the advantage of being in some of the most populous states. All five starters for top-ranked Ohio State come from the Buckeye state, and its roster has three other Ohioans. Illinois has 10 in-state players, including all five starters. Purdue has 11, Michigan State has nine and Iowa has eight.

“There are a lot of kids in Chicago, and they can’t take everybody at Illinois,” Sadler said. “Maybe you can go to Minneapolis and get a kid. Maybe Minnesota doesn’t have a scholarship for him that year. You’re five or six hours away. They grew up in Minneapolis and they want to play in the Big Ten. So I think that’s what is going to help us.”

Additional help will come from the new practice facility that opens next fall, and the Huskers will play in a new downtown Lincoln arena in 2013.

One thing that will still be missing: tradition. The Huskers haven’t won a conference title since 1950, haven’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1998 and have never won an NCAA tournament game.

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