LINCOLN — Isaac Copeland earned a bachelor’s degree from Nebraska earlier this month and will turn 23 in two weeks. It would have been understandable for him to say goodbye to college life and pursue professional basketball.
But late Sunday morning, the senior from Raleigh, North Carolina, withdrew from the NBA draft to return to the Huskers. He joins fellow senior James Palmer, who made the same decision Friday.
Copeland, an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick, said he did it because the team can be better and he can be better.
Nebraska was 22-11 last season and tied for fourth in the 14-team Big Ten at 13-5. But the bad taste left from a trip to the NIT instead of the NCAA tournament lingers.
“A 22-win season was good,” Copeland said. “But we didn’t win enough on the road. We needed some better wins, and that’s what we’re going to go for.”
As for the 6-foot-9, 221-pound forward, getting fully healthy after back surgery in February 2017 gives him a chance to add even more than 12.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 33 blocked shots last season.
Copeland was strictly limited in much of last summer’s workouts.
“Summer always is the big time for lifting and getting your body right,” he said. “And then I didn’t really lift with my legs much at all getting into the season.
“I ran a lot. It really was a process that I couldn’t get fully into as the season got going. So having a full summer and offseason to work out now will be very beneficial for me.”
Have NU fans seen Copeland anywhere close to 100 percent?
“Toward the end of the year, you started to see it,” he said. “But I’ve got a lot more I can show. And I want to be more of a leader and be more aggressive in making a jump in my overall play.”
With Copeland and Palmer back, Nebraska returns four starters. Those four — including Glynn Watson and Isaiah Roby — are the top four returning scorers at a combined 49.3 points a game.