Nebraska basketball will open the Big Ten Tournament on Friday with a golden opportunity to build its resume for the upcoming NCAA Tournament. The Cornhuskers, which earned the No. 4 seed, will play No. 5 seed Michigan around 2:30 p.m. ET at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Should the Cornhuskers have success in the conference tournament, it’ll likely be because of junior guard James Palmer Jr., the team’s leading scorer at 17.4 points per game and one of the top offensive players in the Big Ten.
Here’s five things to know about Palmer before his team kicks off conference tournament play:
1. James Palmer Jr. was a fringe top 100 high school prospect
Palmer spent his high school career at St. John’s College in Washington D.C., where he was the No. 1 prospect in the nation’s capital for 2014. Overall, 247Sports ranked Palmer as a four-star recruit, the 105th-best prospect in the country and the No. 28 shooting guard in his class.
He received offers from dozens of Division I schools, including Power 5 programs such as Miami, Rutgers and Wake Forest. Other programs that showed interest were Maryland, Xavier, Indiana and Georgetown.
He chose to attend Miami in August of 2013.
2. James Palmer Jr. spent his first two college seasons with the Hurricanes
Palmer served as a role player for the Hurricanes in his two seasons in Coral Gables, Fla.
He appeared in 38 games as a freshman, including five starts, and averaged 3.7 points in 13.3 minutes per game. His numbers were mostly the same as a sophomore on a Miami team that finished 27-8 and advanced to the Sweet 16. That year, he averaged 3.4 points in 11.9 minutes of action per contest.
3. James Palmer Jr. transferred to Nebraska before his junior campaign
After two seasons at Miami, Palmer chose to leave the Hurricanes in hopes of finding a program that would give him more freedom on the court.
“In transferring from Miami, I was looking for a school that will let me play my game,” Palmer told the Omaha World Herald in May of 2016. said. “I have a trust in Coach Miles and I could see he has the utmost trust in me, through good or bad.”
Nebraska also has a solid track record with transfers in recent years, as Terran Petteway (Texas Tech) and Andrew White (Kansas) became all-conference caliber players upon arrival. Walter Pitchford (Florida) and Anton Gill (Louisville) found success as well.
Palmer felt he could follow in the footsteps of those players, leading him to commit to the Cornhuskers over California, Cincinnati and Temple.
4. James Palmer Jr. has lit up the Big Ten this season
After sitting out the 2016-17 campaign, Palmer has Nebraska in contention to make their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2014 and eighth overall.
He currently leads the Cornhuskers in scoring at 17.4 points per game, which doubles as the fourth-best mark in the Big Ten. And those around the conference took notice of his efforts. The coaches voted Palmer to first-team All-Big Ten, while the media tabbed the 6-foot-6, 210-pound guard as a second-team performer.
5. James Palmer Jr. threw down one of the best dunks of the season
Palmer channeled his inner Kobe Bryant in the second half of Nebraska’s regular season finale on Sunday, beating his defender baseline and then throwing down an emphatic one-handed reserve dunk. Video evidence below:
James Palmer Jr. is out here looking like Kobe with that 24 on his jersey while pulling off the move the Mamba perfected. 😵@HuskerHoops is up big on Penn State in the second half: pic.twitter.com/Y6I5zVmMjn
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) February 25, 2018
Palmer started down a Penn State defender afterwards, which somehow warranted him receiving a technical foul, but the Cornhuskers still won the game comfortably.
Hopefully we will see some flashes of Palmer’s athleticism in the Big Ten Tournament this weekend.