LINCOLN — Nebraska has regularly dabbled in overseas recruiting for men’s basketball, but the Huskers now have their first player from Iceland.
Thorir Thorbjarnarson, measured as a 6-foot-5 wing from Akureyri, Iceland, played pickup games with NU players Sunday afternoon, went to dinner Sunday night with his father and coach Tim Miles, got a scholarship offer Monday morning and accepted before noon.
Thorbjarnarson, who goes by Thor, is immediately eligible and will enroll when the fall semester starts Aug. 21.
Though his recruitment appeared sudden, sources said Nebraska had been tracking Thorbjarnarson for months through the work of Ali Farokhmanesh, who was NU’s director of player relations and now is an assistant at Drake. Farokhmanesh played four years of pro ball overseas.
Thorbjarnarson, who turned 19 in May, played on Iceland’s Under-20 national team in the FIBA European championship last month in Crete. He averaged 7.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists.
In the 2016 FIBA tournament with the Under-18 team, he averaged 19.6, 6.2 and 1.8.
DraftExpress offered this analysis after the July tournament:
“After turning in tremendous U18 performances in 2016 and 2015, Thorbjarnarson struggled a bit at the U20 level, having issues scoring efficiently in the half court. He struggled to finish over superior size and length.
“He’s at his best when he’s playing with the ball, getting downhill out of a pick and roll. He has great body control, floater finishes and some creativity as the primary ball-handler. He’s competitive and fairly skilled despite being a very inconsistent jump shooter. Defensively, he has quick hands and excellent instincts even though he’s not overly long or physical.
“He has value as a mid-major slashing, playmaking wing who could become really valuable if the program that takes him is able to turn him into a more reliable shooter than what he showed at this event.’’
Nebraska still had two open scholarships for the coming season before pursuing Thorbjarnarson, who also attracted interest from Utah, UMass and Drake.
With NU junior forward Isaac Copeland’s eligibility appeal for the first semester still in limbo and senior guard Anton Gill recovering from knee surgery, sources said the coaching staff felt the need to add another perimeter ball-handler.
Thorbjarnarson, besides his international experience, also has played as an amateur in Iceland’s professional league.
His family is accomplished academically. His father is a liaison to NATO, his mother and one brother are attorneys and another brother is an economist.
International players are hardly new to NU hoops. Just in the past 10 years, the Huskers have had players from New Zealand, Australia, China, Argentina, Germany, British Virgin Islands, Nigeria, Congo and Puerto Rico.