Moorhead's Haiby showing she belongs at the D-I level with Nebraska
University of Nebraska women's basketball coach Amy Williams told all players to be prepared to get in the game in the season opener against Drake in early November. Moorhead High School graduate Sam Haiby didn't really believe Williams, but Haiby wasn't sure if her nerves were trying to convince her she wouldn't play or if she honestly didn't believe her coach.
It was a weird spot for Haiby. The all-time leading scorer in Moorhead basketball history was not used to assuming she'd be on the bench. Next thing she knew, her name was called to check in to her first collegiate basketball game.
"Hearing my name and the coaches calling me to go in was a surreal moment," Haiby said. "It was really exciting."
Haiby was playing defense on the wing in her first play as a collegiate basketball player. A teammate stole the ball and found Haiby for a wide-open layup. She went from wondering if she'd play to scoring her first points with Nebraska in a matter of seconds.
"I was just hoping I didn't miss the layup," Haiby said.
She played nearly 20 minutes in that first game, scoring a team-high 13 points. Through 11 games, Haiby is leading Nebraska in points and is second on the team in assists. The freshman guard is averaging 22.5 minutes, 11 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists a game for Nebraska.
"We've known she's a capable scorer, obviously at Moorhead she put up big numbers on the scoreboard, but the speed at which she has transitioned to this level and the confidence she's showing going to the basket have brought a lot of positive things here early in her career," Williams said. "We brought her to Nebraska because we felt she was a big-time player and we were excited about that. Early in practice we got to see firsthand her unique abilities and such explosive speed. She'll lull people to sleep, including our scout guys in practice and then, wham, she's at the rim laying it up."
Williams is hoping Haiby keeps lulling defenders to sleep, but perhaps she does it a little louder.
"The sky's the limit for Sam," Williams said. "There's definitely still room for improvement. We're trying to get her to be more vocal and get everybody organized when she's playing the point. It's very common for an incoming freshman to need to be more vocal."
Success is nothing new to Haiby. She finished her career at Moorhead with 2,421 points, 748 rebounds, 525 assists and 405 steals, averaging 25.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 4.7 steals per game in her career.
Despite bringing that resume to Lincoln, Neb., Haiby admitted she was nervous at her first practice with Nebraska. She said coaches and the veterans on the team helped her adjust.
"A lot of it is having confidence in myself," Haiby said. "I know my coaches try to instill in me that I belong out there, but I've also realized the game is a lot faster than high school and the girls are a lot bigger and stronger, so I'm going to have to learn to work off the court. Attacking the basket is what I pride myself on, so when the coaches told me to keep doing that that just built my confidence."
Haiby fractured her left wrist against the University of Louisville. Doctors told her as long as she could handle the pain, she could play. She hasn't missed any of the five games since.
"She's a tough kid, and we're really happy she is," Williams said.
Despite the calm aspect to her demeanor and her game, Haiby has had her moments of awe as a freshman. Louisville revealed its Final Four banner the night the Cardinals played Nebraska in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge in front of a crowd of more than 7,000. Haiby also got a chance to see Asia Durr, who some are projecting as a No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft, up close.
"That was a surreal and cool experience," Haiby said. "That was a moment where I couldn't believe where I was at."
Moorhead head girls basketball coach Jed Carlson got a chance to watch Haiby play live last Saturday against the University of Denver. She did not disappoint, scoring seven points to go with career-highs in rebounds with six and assists with eight. She had no turnovers in the game.
"She's playing big minutes at big times," Carlson said. "There's no doubt she looks like a contributor for years to come. It's just really nice to see her excelling.
"We asked her to do so much at Moorhead. Now, she has a role and she does it so well."
Haiby had her graduation party on June 1, graduated from Moorhead on June 3 and was on Nebraska's campus June 4. She goes to classes in the morning, has practice ever day except game days and sometimes the day after a game at 2:30 for a couple hours and has to lift once or twice a week.
This is her new life.
"It's just become a routine," Haiby said. "It's a grind, managing schoolwork and getting your assignments in on the road. It's fun, but it's a lot of hard work. The basketball part, though, I really enjoy."