LINCOLN — Nebraska will begin Friday night's home men's basketball opener against Florida Gulf Coast with a 9-7 lead.
That's in available scholarship players.
The Huskers are down to nine after coach Tim Miles on Wednesday revealed that senior guard and top returning scorer Ray Gallegos has been suspended and true freshman guard Nathan Hawkins is out indefinitely with an injury.
Add in a previous three-game suspension to junior guard Deverell Biggs (DUI) and NU is down to nine on scholarship. One previous scholarship slot is unfilled.
Also, junior walk-on Jordan Tyrance, a candidate for playing time, has left the team with Miles' blessing and counsel to finish his degree and care for his daughter.
Gallegos, who turns 23 next week, is sidelined Friday night and for Tuesday's game against Western Illinois for “personal conduct.” Miles declined to elaborate, other than to say he set the suspension length. Gallegos won't be stripped of his captaincy for now.
“It's disappointing,” Miles said. “At the same time, I'm not so sure Ray's not going to come back better from this. Give him a couple of weeks to collect his thoughts.”
Gallegos led the Big Ten in minutes played last season and was third nationally at 37.5. He averaged 12.5 points and made 83 3-pointers, the second-most in school history.
“I believe in Ray,” Miles said. “I believe he can get past this and be a very good productive player for us and still have a leadership role.”
Without Gallegos, Nebraska is expected to start the same lineup it did for Monday's 91-60 exhibition win over the University of Nebraska at Kearney: point guard Tai Webster, shooting guard Terran Petteway, small forward Shavon Shields, power forward Leslee Smith and center Walter Pitchford.
All but Shields will make their first career start.
Meanwhile, Florida Gulf Coast entered fall practice with nine available scholarship players — four under the NCAA limit — because three transfers are sitting out and a freshman left the team.
Now, returning starting center Eric McKnight is serving a six-game suspension and freshman forward Logan Hovey is out with a stress fracture.
FGCU, which got to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament last season, might be down another player, too. Junior guard Bernard Thompson, the returning Atlantic Sun Conference defensive player of the year, has been hobbled this week with a sprained ankle.
Nebraska's situation, Miles said, has put any redshirt plans on hold. Hawkins and fellow freshman forward Nick Fuller had been candidates to sit out.
“I don't know about the injury (to Hawkins),” Miles said. “We'll see how long that lingers.”
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>> Video: Ray Gallegos suspended: