Bryce McGowens became Nebraska’s highest-drafted player since 1998, as he was selected in the second round (No. 40 overall) by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2022 NBA Draft Thursday night. His stay in Minnesota was short-lived, as his rights were traded to the Charlotte Hornets.
McGowens, a 6-foot-7 guard from Pendleton, S.C., became NU’s highest draft pick since Tyronn Lue was taken No. 23 overall in the 1998 NBA Draft. McGowens’ selection also marks the third Husker NBA draft pick in a four-year span, joining Isaiah Roby (2019) and Dalano Banton (No. 21). Before this stretch, the last time it occurred for the NU basketball program was between 1979 and 1982. McGowens’ selection marks the first time that Nebraska has had consecutive NBA Draft picks since 1998 and 1999 (Tyronn Lue and Venson Hamilton).
McGowens turned in an impressive freshman campaign, earning Big Ten Newcomer-of-the-Year honors by the Associated Press after averaging a team-high 16.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. A third-team All-Big Ten selection by both the coaches and media, he ranked ninth in the Big Ten in scoring in 2021-22, while also ranking among the conference leaders in free throws made (162, second), free throws attempted (195, sixth) and free throw percentage (.831, third).
An eight-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week, his 16.8 ppg ranked third among true freshmen nationally, while he also ranked in the top three nationally in both free throws made (162) and attempted (195). McGowens established school freshman marks for highest season average (16.8), points (522), free throws made (162) and attempted (195) while ranking in the top 10 freshman lists in field goals (160, 2nd), rebounds (161, 4th) and 3-pointers (40, 6th).
He posted 11 games of at least 20 points in 2021-22, including a season-high 29 points against both Sam Houston and Rutgers. He played his best basketball down the stretch, averaging 19.8 ppg in a 12-game stretch, including seven 20-point outbursts, before missing the regular season finale at Wisconsin with an injury. In Big Ten play, his 17.3 points per game was the highest scoring average for any freshman since Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell in 2014-15.
McGowens was one of the nation’s top high school seniors in the class of 2021, as he was a five-star recruit by both Rivals and 247Sports and a consensus top-25 recruit. He totaled 2,341 career points and was selected to play in the Allen Iverson Roundball Classic and was named to the Jordan Brand Classic. He was the Gatorade and Max Preps Player of the Year in South Carolina in 2021, averaging 21.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game playing for Legacy Early College.
McGowens becomes the sixth player in Fred Hoiberg‘s eight seasons as a college head coach to be selected in the NBA Draft. In addition, five other players have reached the NBA after not being drafted.