Before Fridays practice, before the Boise State mens basketball team went into the film room to study Saturdays opponent, freshman forward Joey Nebeker learned UC Santa Barbaras favorite offensive plays.
The former Melba High standout wasnt gearing up for defensive stops, however. He was preparing to run those plays as a member of the Broncos scout team.
Nebeker is redshirting this season, which means he can participate in practice and dress for games, but will not play.
The Broncos (3-1) host UC Santa Barbara (2-2) at 2 p.m. Saturday at Taco Bell Arena.
At first, I wasnt too happy because I wanted to play. Im a competitive person, so obviously I wanted to get out there, Nebeker said.
But now Im happy with it. It gives me an extra year of school, which is great. Thats why Im here. And its just another year to get better, too.
If the 6-foot-7, 222-pound Nebeker needs any advice on how to use a redshirt season, teammate Mikey Thompson is providing a good example.
After redshirting last season, Thompson is averaging 9.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists in four games as the top player off the bench.
Thompson had a season-high 14 points and grabbed five rebounds in Tuesdays 74-70 loss at Michigan State.
You just got to learn from it. You just got to take heed of what (coaches are) saying and just learn your position, said Thompson, who moved to point guard from shooting guard last year. I learned everything from playing the point, knowing who is on my team, what I can do and what I cant do.
This isnt football, where most players expect to redshirt as freshmen to add size, adjust to the college game and work their way up the depth chart.
But coach Leon Rice said the same benefits are available to basketball players.
The physical and mental maturity going from your freshman year to your sophomore year is huge. Its just huge to get a taste of what college is about, Rice said. The college game is different than the high school game.
Nebeker is learning that quickly. He was almost always the best player on the floor at Melba, using his size to post up smaller players or simply shoot over them. Few in high school could match his skill level or speed him up enough to make things uncomfortable.
Thats not true now.
Speeding up everything from the high school level to the college level, its a huge difference, said Nebeker, who played two minutes in the exhibition win against Saint Martins and missed both of his shots.
In addition to his overall quickness, Nebeker is working on expanding his shooting ability and learning the Broncos system.
Thompson did much of the same last year, even though the Broncos could have used his athleticism on the floor.
Were there times we could have used Mikey last year? Heck yeah. But when we took over this program, we wanted to make as many decisions as we could for the long term, said Rice, who is in his third season. In a couple years, when we look back at Mikeys career, were going to be so grateful he redshirted.
Thompsons improvement and his immediate impact this season is making the choice look like a no-brainer. But the decisions arent always so easy. Players want to play. And injuries or circumstances can complicate things.
Guard Joe Hanstad was going to redshirt last season, but injuries forced him into action in the 11th game of the season. Forward Darrious Hamilton redshirted last season after shoulder surgery.
Well really benefit in this program when you can start getting these redshirts in their third and fourth year. Now youve got something, Rice said. Youve got veterans that have been through it, that have worked their way through it. It pays huge dividends down the road.
Thompson is showing that down the road doesnt have to be all that far away.
Brian Murphy: 377-6444, Twitter: @MurphsTurph