The success of junior college players at the Division I level is notoriously random. Devron Bostick, touted by some of as the best junior college player in the country before joining the Golden Gophers a few years ago, barely cracked Tubby Smith’s rotation. Andre Ingram, who was recruited as an emergency fill-in, unexpectedly was a valuable back-up during his two seasons with the Gophers. Deandre Mathieu was an undersized low-major cast-off. Now, he might be the Gophers best player. If junior college players are lottery tickets, Richard Pitino hit the jack-pot on his first try.
The Golden Gophers will go as far as Andre Hollins can carry them this season, and Hollins will go as far as his ankles let him. The combo-guard has a good chance to become the Gophers’ all-time leading scorer, despite being healthy for only one complete season, his sophomore year. That season he scored 41 points in a game, was named third team All-Big Ten, and helped his team make the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament for the first time in over a decade. Historical scoring out-bursts shouldn’t be needed this season, but if Hollins can be one of the six best guards in the conference, another tournament run would be expected.
I’ll admit, I’m still getting used to the ruthless efficiency Richard Pitino is showing in all things basketball. It’s actually incredibly disorienting to have someone in charge who’s not only resourceful, but also great at what they do. Like, no one before him thought to turn the Bierman Complex basketball court into a makeshift practice facility?
It is getting perilously close to the start of the Golden Gophers basketball season. Practice starts tomorrow. The first game isn’t much more than a month away. It might snow a bit this weekend. Things are getting real, as kids once said. Here is a wishlist for the upcoming season, with items both reasonable and unrealistic.
I really don’t like recruiting. I’d rather pretend that basketball players grow on trees, or are delivered by storks, who may or may not be sponsored by shoe companies. Trying to divine the thoughts of ever fickle teenagers, or translating YouTube videos into future on court performance doesn’t exactly lend itself to the analysis we try to provide here. Luckily, we don’t have to worry about recruits for a while, and can focus on the much more interesting topic of roster management and succession planning.
In the last couple of weeks, while the summer slowly drifted away, Richard Pitino secured two more commitments to the Golden Gophers, giving the team a top 25 recruiting class. Both players, guard Dupree McBrayer and center Jonathan Nwankwo, have ties to the New York City area. Kevin Dorsey, who committed earlier this summer, is from Maryland. There won’t be any new faces with Minnesota ties this season, with Bakary Konate, Nate Mason, and Josh Martin hailing from out of state, or out of the country. Pitino had one freshman in his first recruiting class, and Daquein McNeil isn’t from around here either.
Last night we learned that Gaston Diedhiou was not admitted to the University of Minnesota for the fall semester, and therefore, won’t be joining the team this fall. Orginally from Mali, and currently living in Spain, the Gopher power forward recruit did not demonstrate sufficient English proficiency to be admitted to the university. The plan, as it stands, is for him to complete an English language classes during the fall semester as a non-student and enroll during the second semester. He would then presumably join the team. It isn’t ideal to lose a player a week before classes start, but in terms of basketball, this isn’t a big deal. Diedhiou , if he wasn’t red-shirted, would have been a fourth-string center or a third-string power forward.
The Golden Gophers tip off their 2014-2015 basketball season is just over three months. Summer will fade into fall as anticipation, and some guarded optimism, builds. But why wait until November, or until March, when you can know what happened now.
This morning Kevin Dorsey, a 6’0″ point guard out of Maryland, confirmed that he had verbally committed to join the Golden Gophers for the 2015-2016 basketball season. That season is nearly a year and a half away, giving the team two point guards of the present, and two of the future.
Despite a more aesthetically pleasing offense in Richard Pitino’s first season, the Minnesota Gophers’ offense was merely average during the 2013-2014 season, and slightly worse than Tubby Smith’s final season. Last season, the best shooters didn’t shoot enough.