Another incredibly bizarre dance team performance, introductions from all sides, excessive Colton Iverson hip gyrations, a motorcycle, a four man three point shooting contest, a four man dunk contests, a twenty minute running time scrimmage, and poof it was all over.
Maybe I am getting too old to enjoy much that happens after 11 pm or maybe it really all was a blur, but this incarnation of Tubby’s Tip-off could have been a little better. Starting so late didn’t bring in extra students. In fact, there were many fewer students than previous years. Non-students (old people like myself) would have appreciated an earlier start, and an earlier start might have brought a few more people through the door.
The highlight of the night, and something that I had blown off in previous years, was the autograph session. I still think asking random 18 year olds to sign a piece of paper is a little weird. Having an opportunity for a brief conversation with the players was a blast. Among the things I learned was that Austin Hollins is not emotionally prepared for winter, Trevor Mbakwe is absolutely thrilled to back on the court, Elliott Elliason is a little overwhelmed by living in a city roughly one hundred times larger than his home town, and Devoe Joseph is a very funny kid. He mentioned that it doesn’t matter if Damian Johnson is okay with him wearing #34 this season, because Johnson is an ocean away. Cold, funny, and not unexpected. According to Johnson via the twitter (as the kids these days call it) Joseph took #34 last year in an effort to woo Corey Joseph, who would have worn #5 if he became a Gopher.
The official festivities kicked off with a groan. No words can truly describe the dance team’s performance, but an excessively long and creepy youtube music video can.
Who thought this would be a good idea?
The player introductions weren’t exceptionally exciting. Trevor Mbakwe received the loudest cheering, and symbolized that last season’s long national basketball nightmare is finally over. Colton Iverson danced, or more accurately thrusted various limbs in various directions while music played. It could have easily been a residual seizure from the dance team performance. And then there was Tubby.
Not exactly the sex machine dance from a few years ago, but not bad either.
Perhaps in an attempt to keep things moving after a late start, the abbreviated three-point shooting contest featured only four players: Maverick Ahanmisi vs. Blake Hoffarber and Devoe Joseph vs. Ralph Sampson III. Hoffarber and Joseph won the first round matches 10-9 and 11-9 respectively. Hoffarber, as expected beat Joseph in the final round.
Rodney Williams was held out of the dunk contest as precautionary measure following a concussion a few weeks ago. The lack of star power was replaced by more competition as Trevor Mbakwe, Chris Halvorson, Oto Osenieks, Austin Hollins, and Chip Armelin did their best to fill in for the injured Williams.
These were good attempts.
But ultimately, if there is an inexplicable motor cycle sitting in the corner, it must be jumped.
Tubby Smith was clearly worried about losing another forward to a concussion.
The scrimmage went as things usually go. It was a bit ragged, not a ton of defense, and a lot faster paced than what we will usually see. The most important and obvious thing to take away from the scrimmage was the speed and athleticism on display. These guys can move and get up to the rim in a hurry. There aren’t many teams that can keep up with them.
Who did what:
Al Nolen looks like the same Al Nolen. It wasn’t immediately clear if he improved his outside shot or found a way to finish in traffic, because he didn’t really attack the rim and didn’t really have many chances from the outside. He spent most of his time running the offense. He didn’t get caught in the lane looking helpless though, and he looked to be in good shape. He had a basket and a free throw in the scrimmage.
Oto Osenieks could be something special some day. He has a very smooth shot for someone his size and can jump as well. If things go well, he could be the next Michael Bauer, hopefully without the chronic injury problems. He scored two in the scrimmage.
Elliott Elliason just needs a year to get bigger. He moves smoothly, fights for rebounds, but ultimately isn’t quite big enough yet to hold his own in the Big Ten.
Austin Hollins looks a lot like Shawn Respert, but is a lot more athletic. He appears to be the fastest player on the team, which should be a scary thought to the rest of the Big Ten. He is also very long, and appears ready to step in for the departed Damian Johnson.
Devoe Joseph put on an offense show, hitting lay-ups, mid-range step back jumpers, and two three pointers. He looked confident at the end of last season, and is even more confident this season. He finished the scrimmage with 11 points, and seems poised for a huge season.
Mo Walker is huge. Despite what he is listed at, he isn’t a pound under 310. He needs to lose a bit of weight and get in better shape just so he can stay on the court. He is a load in the paint, but got winded after a few trips up and down the court once the pace of the scrimmage picked up. He’ll most likely play some spot minutes for rebounding help, but will be a big weapon once he drops a few pounds.
Trevor Mbakwe will be taking last year’s frustration out on the rim this season. But he isn’t just a dunker. He showed nice touch out to about ten feet and is more than willing to put the ball on the floor from the high post. He scored seven points with the emphatic final two coming off a long range alley-oop from Joseph.
Maverick Ahanmisi may be the most questionable player on the roster. It was good to see that he at the very least has a good looking jumper and held his own in the three point contest. There has been plenty of talk that he is not Big Ten ready, and that may be true. However, there isn’t anything necessarily “broken” about his game, and with more experience and a lot of hard word he might eventually contribute. In the scrimmage he missed a few contested three pointers but did make an easy lay-up.
Colton Iverson has a much better attitude than last year when he often seemed frustrated. He seemed loose and was having fun. There has been talk that he spent most of the summer developing a mid-range game, but didn’t show that off on Friday night. Instead, he scored six points from six feet or less from the basket.
Ralph Sampson’s inclusion in the three point contest drew a few laughs, but once his first shot hit nothing but net, more than a few folks in The Barn started thinking about the possibilities of a confident, seven foot tall, outside shooting threat.
Chip Armelin is going to be very intriguing. His shot is ugly, but he is supposedly a very good outside shooter. He can also get to the rim and finish with authority. There is a very good chance that he will be a steal as a last second recruit.
Dominique Dawson played but did not score.
Chris Halvorson has a lot of athleticism for a big guy, and inside depth is always nice to have, especially from a walk-on.
Blake Hoffarber is as solid as ever, and looked comfortable handling the ball. I was hoping they would put him in the dunk contest, but I guess the world will never know what he is capable of.