LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Few college basketball coaches ooze optimism more than Nebraska's Tim Miles.
His sunny disposition is being put to the test this offseason, though, after the unexpected losses of two players and an assistant coach and the expected departure of All-Big Ten guard Terran Petteway.
All this followed a 13-win season that ended with nine straight losses.
''I'm really pleased with where we are in terms of players and our future,'' Miles said Monday. ''Have there been some guys who transferred who I wish wouldn't have? Yeah. That happens every year.''
Walter Pitchford, a two-year starter, surprised Miles by announcing on March 30 that he would declare for the NBA draft. The next day freshman guard Tarin Smith, who played significant minutes late in the season, said he planned to transfer. Petteway said Thursday he was declaring for the draft, and on Sunday assistant coach Chris Harriman told Miles he was leaving to become associate head coach at New Mexico.
Next season Kansas transfer Andrew White becomes eligible, and he'll be joined by five recruits who make up a class ranked No. 31 nationally by ESPN.com.
''When was the last time Nebraska had one of these recruiting classes like this?'' Miles said. ''We've got a great core of guys returning. We don't have a big guy. That is my greatest concern.''
Leading the newcomers are top-100 recruits Glynn Watson, a point guard from Bellewood, Illinois, and Ed Morrow, a forward from Chicago. The Huskers also signed forward Mike Jacobson of Waukee, Iowa, guard Bakari Evelyn of Hillcrest Academy in Arizona by way of Detroit, and forward Jack McVeigh of Gold Coast, Australia.
Miles is holding out hope that the Huskers can still bring in a big man.
''We're trying to explore every option conceivable,'' he said, ''whether that be a late available high school kid, graduate transfer, junior college kid, (and) a foreign kid probably being the last option for us.''
The Huskers' priority is to improve offensively. They were 337th nationally in 3-point shooting (28.4 percent) and 275th in overall shooting (41.2 percent). They were 305th in scoring (61.5 ppg).
Harriman just finished his third season at Nebraska, and Miles said it caught him off-guard when he told him he was leaving. Miles said Harriman told him he thinks the move will improve his chances of becoming a head coach. Also, Harriman is a native of Australia and has strong recruiting ties there, and New Mexico has had several Aussies play there.
Petteway, who averaged 18.1 points the past two seasons, attended Monday's news conference with Miles. Petteway sat out one season after transferring to Nebraska from Texas Tech, and he will turn 23 in October. He said his age would work against him if he returned to school for a fifth year.
As it is, Petteway is projected no higher than a second-round pick, and he might have to go overseas to play professionally if he goes undrafted.
''Confidence level is real high,'' he said. ''Once I get in those workouts, I'll move up on the boards and definitely be a first-rounder. I'm thinking about overseas, but not really.''