Jack McVeigh shooting for Big 10 elite

Jack McVeigh could hardly string two sentences together, when asked about his excitement level for the season ahead.

After earning a spot in Nebraska’s rotation, McVeigh enters his sophomore season filled with anticipation of what lies ahead. The eagerness in McVeigh’s voice was clear, even though we were talking from separate parts of the globe. The Sydney native is ready to get the Huskers back into the Big 10 elite, with help from some new mates.

“It’s good, it’s exciting,” McVeigh said of the upcoming season. “We got a lot of new guys, two big transfers. One is Anton Gill, who is my roommate from Louisville, who will have a big impact.

“We’re young, so that’s always exciting. We got a tough schedule coming up which we’re all looking forward to, that’s why we’re here. It’s exciting, you know how it is, everyone’s positive at this time of year. Everyone’s looking to do big things.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_acI4lBDNc

Last season, McVeigh played 17 minutes a night, including a pair of 34-minute outings in back-to-back games against a couple of Big 10 giants. In a road game against Indiana, McVeigh put up 17 points, following that effort up with a 16-point performance against Ohio State.

Nebraska saw what McVeigh can provide in those two outings. McVeigh has shooting range that extents beyond the three-point line and he has the ability to play at the small or power forward spot, and he is looking to better himself this season.

“I had a real good off-season. I spent a lot of time in the weight room, trying to get more athletic and getting faster feet for the defensive end,” McVeigh said.

“I’ve been working on my shot a lot and making smarter decisions off the dribble when I get into the paint. Getting used to playing with and against better athletes as well.”

McVeigh connected on 34 percent of his three-pointers, which is an above average rate, but it does leave room for improvement. With modern basketball trending to favour big man who can space the floor with their shooting skills, McVeigh plans on making it a staple of his game.

“Yeah, 100 percent, that’s pretty much been my main goal for the last year and a half, trying to get my shot to a knockdown level,” McVeigh said.

“I would love to shoot 40-plus percent from the three and really have a bigger impact for the team. I almost want to double everything I did last year.”

Along with the shooting capability, McVeigh has the defensive versatility to switch onto smaller guards and stay in front of his man. His high basketball IQ on the defensive end allows McVeigh to make the right decisions defensively and not get caught out of position. This is another attribute that is a vital one in today’s game, as the speed and athleticism on the court is rising. McVeigh has recognised this and it’s another area of his game that he is constantly trying to perfect.

“Watching a lot of NBA, it’s a big position where you can switch the three and four on defense, someone who can guard both positions,” McVeigh said.

As much as it’s a benefit that McVeigh can play the three and four spot, it can create problems. Multiple players in the pros have struggled to establish themselves, simply because they don’t know how to adjust their games to their position. McVeigh, though, has a preference, as he played at the three for majority of last season, and understands the differences he needs to make in his game, based on where he is slotted into the line-up.

“My most comfortable position would be at the three,” McVeigh said. “At the three a lot of it involves coming off away screens, down screens and stuff like that.

“At the four, I play the pick and pop, and as the stretch guy who trails on the play for fast break threes. I can use my speed and ball handling to break down four guys who can be bigger at times.”

Continually refining your individual skill set is common practice among professional athletes. It’s something they all need to deal with, but one distinct challenge that McVeigh --and other Australians making the jump to college-- undertake is adapting to the American style of basketball. There were subtle changes to the level of athleticism, that McVeigh needed time to adjust to.

“There were definitely a lot of adjustments on little things that are hard to explain,” McVeigh said.

“When you drive, the gap closes down a lot quicker and their hands move faster, so they’re quicker to get just a little tip of the ball. Things like that take a little while to get used to.

"You’re used to the shot blocking, and you expect that, but it’s just those small little things that can take a long time to adjust to.”

However, McVeigh has also been able to use his Australian pedigree to his advantage in some instances.

“Growing up sometimes, I was frowned upon a little bit for how competitive I was,” McVeigh said.

“Say you talk a little banter on the court or you throw a little elbow or a push, it’s frowned upon in Australia. In America, especially at this level, it’s expected.

“If you don’t do that stuff, you can’t keep up and you’re going to get eaten alive.”

After spending three weeks in Australia during the off-season for his older brother’s wedding, McVeigh stayed at Nebraska for majority of his summer. One of the main reasons in doing so was to work on his game, but also think about being apart of the drought-breaking Huskers squad.

Nebraska has made the NCAA tournament just seven times in school history, and once since 1998. In those appearances, the Cornhuskers haven’t won a single game. McVeigh, and his teammates, are aware of the record and are keen to rewrite the history books.

“We definitely use it for motivation,” McVeigh said of the tournament record.

“We talk about how we want to create a legacy with this group of dudes. That’s why we are here, to do things that haven’t been done.”

McVeigh has had strong breeding throughout his career. Before landing at Nebraska, McVeigh spent time at the Australian Institute of Sport, and he had nothing but praise for their program, one that replicates the lifestyle of a collegiate athlete.

“The AIS prepares you a lot for that,” McVeigh said of the transition to college.

“When I explain to my teammates or coaches where I lived, I pretty much say it’s a college just for athletes, that’s how I describe it because you do the same things. You get up, you work out, and you live with your team and your whole world centres around basketball and school. You’re away from family, so it’s a very similar environment but it’s not as intense because you don’t have the big games.

“The fact you were doing it there for two years already makes the transition pretty easy and something that you’re already used to.”

As you’d expect, McVeigh has aspirations of turning his college career into a professional one. Despite this, McVeigh is weary that he isn’t ready for that jump yet, and is solely fixated on his adventures at Nebraska.

“I think I’ll most likely be here for another year,” McVeigh said of staying in college or going pro after this season.

“My body isn’t ready yet and I’ve got a lot of things to work on, but it’s definitely something that’s never out of the books. There’s always a chance if something pops up, you got to take your opportunities, but it’s whatever comes.

“Right now, I’m just 100 percent focused on this team and we got something pretty special going on here.”