It’s rare that someone would prefer winter in Lincoln, Nebraska to winter in Miami.
But it worked out for James Palmer, Jr.
Palmer, an Upper Marlboro native and former standout at St. John’s and Henry A. Wise, started his college career at the University of Miami. The 6-foot-6 wing played sparingly there, averaging about 12 minutes and three points per game for the Hurricanes.
With prospects for playing time looking bleak, Palmer opted to transfer to Nebraska. There, coach Tim Miles has shown a knack for landing transfers from big-time schools like Terran Petteway (Texas Tech), Walter Pitchford (Florida) and Andrew White (Kansas). All flourished at Nebraska and later pursued professional basketball careers of one kind or another.
“Those guys left a trail for me to follow,” Palmer told the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star. “That shows a good example of Nebraska getting good transfer players and really developing them.”
Palmer, still a junior after sitting out last season, has developed as well as any. Palmer enters Sunday’s regular-season finale against Penn State with a 17.6 scoring average. He’s the top scorer for a Nebraska team that is a surprising fourth in the Big Ten.
Thanks to his help – and the help of Georgetown transfer Isaac Copeland (13.0 ppg, team-best 6.1 rpg) – Nebraska (21-9) has won 20 games in the regular season for the first time since 1992-93. Nebraska went 12-19 a year ago.
Nebraska’s 20th win and Palmer’s performance in it might have been celebrated a little more locally, but for the circumstances; the win came at home against Maryland last week in a game the visitors had to have to bolster their NCAA Tournament resume.
But the Huskers held off the Terrapins, 70-66. Palmer did a lot of damage, scoring 24 of his game-high 26 points in the second half.
He scored 15 straight Nebraska point during one stretch of the second half. Maryland couldn’t do much to stop him with Kevin Huerter and Darryl Morsell in foul trouble.
“I’ve watched him since he was a sophomore in high school,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon told The (Baltimore) Sun. “Nothing he did tonight surprises me.”
It’s fair to say Palmer has been a pleasant surprise for Nebraska, though, which is challenging for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Nebraska hasn’t earned a bid since 1997-98.
“When I’ve got a guy like James Palmer, who’s a potential all-league guard, making play after play and coming in with a focused, great mentality every night out, I feel very good about our chances,” Miles told the Lincoln Journal Star.
Here’s a look at how some other former Washington area high school stars are doing in college this season:
- Speaking of transfers, few have been as successful than DeMatha grad Jairus Lyles, now at UMBC. Lyles, a 6-foot-2 guard who started his college career at VCU, had a brief stop at Robert Morris, then became a star at UMBC. He averaged 23.0 as a sophomore. 18.8 as a junior and 20.8 this season. The Retrievers are 19-10 and second in the America East Conference to Vermont.
- Georgetown hasn’t turned it around under first-year coach Patrick Ewing yet, but junior forward Marcus Derrickson has. Derrickson (Paul VI) has almost doubled his scoring (from 8.3 to 15.9) and rebounding (4.4 to 8.0) averages this season. He’s second on the Hoyas (15-11) in both categories.
- Maryland has struggled since the start of the new year, especially on the road, because of a rash of injuries. But the Terrapins (19-11) would be even worse off if not for the nightly work of St. John’s grad Anthony Cowan. Cowan, a 6-foot 1 point guard, leads Maryland in scoring (15.7), assists (5.1) and minutes played (37.0). He can rarely come out because Mark Turgeon has no one else on the roster who can reliably run the point.
- Ryan Allen, a 6-foot-2 freshman guard from DeMatha, has been a bright spot for Delaware (12-18) this season. He pumped in a career-high 26 points in a loss to Elon earlier this month and has reached double figures in 16 of his last 17 games. He averages 15.9 points per game, second-best on the team.
- Junior point guard Justin Robinson (Manassas/St. James School) has come on strong of late as Virginia Tech tries to lock up an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Robinson leads the Hokies (20-8) in scoring (13.7) and assists (5.6). He had 14 points in Va. Tech’s upset of No. 15 Clemson on Wednesday night and 20 points in the 61-60 overtime upset of then-No. 2 Virginia on Feb. 10.