aMAILia BAG is an occasional installment on this blog where you send me questions (to @AmeliaRayno on Twitter or firstname.lastname@example.org) and I answer them here. Questions below are in bold, while my responses are in regular type.
Seems like the new coaching staff more aggressively pursues the players they want. Not that Tubby didn’t, but it just seems that way. Because of the coaching change and the style of play, do you think we will have a better shot at Tyus than the previous staff would have?
That is an interesting question (and one you’re probably not going to like the answer to).
I do agree that the Gophers’ new staff has aggressively gone after recruits already in a way that was lacking with former coach Tubby Smith’s staff. However, even if this staff has been substantially more personable and intense and dedicated, Jones has been getting that for years from the likes of Duke (which has other things the Gophers don’t, namely, a long, storied tradition – don’t send me hate tweets for this, please). Tyus Jones will not be won overnight, and that is essentially what the new staff is trying to do. They have to try – of course – but the reality of them succeeding remains very slim. Jones -- who is smart beyond his years and has gotten years of worthy guidance from his mother, Debbie, who kind of acts as stand-in agent -- will keep the Gophers on his list because he respects his home state institution. However, he’s careful not to say that his opinion of the program has changed in any way with the coaching switch (which seems impossible, since the coach is such a huge part of a decision) in order to not stir up headlines on either side. He also indicated to me last weekend that he isn’t planning on using one of his official visits on Minnesota, since he’s been around campus so much already. Compare that answer, however, to that of Reid Travis, who is in the same position but wants to official with the Gophers because “there are ins and outs you really can’t experience with an unofficial” and it becomes meaningful.
Adding fire to this theory is the fact that old buddy Jahlil Okafor – about whom Jones says he’s “99 percent” sure he’ll play with at the next level – has officially edited out Minnesota from his final list of eight. Look at the schools the pair have in common on their narrowed lists, and you’ll probably see the school where both of them will end up.
Are the Gophers eliminated? No, they won’t be eliminated until Jones eliminates them. But the odds of him ending up in Maroon and Gold are, shall we say, not favorable.
Thanks for all of your hard work. I really enjoy all that you do throughout all of the various mediums to keep Gopher fans up-to-date on all of the on and off court happenings.
My question: I know that a practice facility is crucial for recruiting. That said, I don't really know what is in a practice facility. I assume it has courts, offices, workout facilities and places to watch film. What all goes into the practice facility? Does it have a cafeteria? Dorm rooms for the athletes? Computer labs for the mandatory study hours?
Sorry if you've mentioned this previously....
Thanks, Steve, and good question! Every practice facility is different and there are many amenities that can be added to make it super glitzy if the financial support is there. They don’t typically include dorms, although Kentucky did recently unveil a player dorm right across the street from theirs (don’t expect that with the Gophers). Minnesota wants to make theirs noteworthy, I think, while probably being far from extravagant. Some of the things that athletic director Norwood Teague has already said he wants to include are separate courts for the men’s and women’s teams, a players’ lounge (which usually contains couches, recliners, TVs and possibly video games, snacks, etc.), a weight room, a film room, a sports medicine center and possibly offices as well.
They could go crazy and add a smoothie bar. Who wouldn’t love to hang out in a place with a smoothie bar?
Of the Big 4 in BIG 10 last season -- Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State -- all lost key players, who looks best?
Well, I think speaking strictly from a sense of who slid out of graduation/the draft with the best deal, that’s definitely Michigan State. They only had one senior – Derrick Nix – graduate, and out of all their stars – Keith Appling, Gary Harris, Adreian Payne, Branden Dawson – everyone else stayed. Good deal! That alone gives them a very strong argument for the Big Ten title favorite. Michigan should also be very good, despite losing both Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. Michigan has the 12th ranked incoming class of recruits and had a lot of very promising pieces in place already, with Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, Jordan Morgan, Nik Stauskas and Spike Albrecht. Indiana is the only one of those that is REALLY hurt (I mean, losing Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, Remy Abell and Maurice Creek?? Ouch) but even so, their sixth-ranked recruiting class could keep them in the top 25 nationally, or near it.
This past week, I read that some Big Ten insiders have their doubts as to whether Rich’s fast-paced style of play will translate well in the conference. What do you think?
Bobby Wayne in Hopkins
I got to this question a little bit a couple of days ago and addressed it some here. In general, I don’t think there’s anything about the Big Ten that necessarily prohibits the style, but executing it effectively and consistently could be tougher.
Is Ellenson more of a 2 or 3 in Pitino's system? Or do positions matter less overall if you can run, defend, & shoot? #gophers
I think he could realistically play either. With his athleticism, he could really excel on the wing. I think he’s versatile enough, and a good enough shooter, to slide in at either spot. In general, I think Pitino is looking for quick athletes that can shoot, so in that way he could fit in nicely.
Do you think that Theo Pinston going to the Tar Heels crosses them off Vaughns list? They now have a top SG & SF for 2014.
He’s publicly said no, that doesn’t matter, but while that might not be a deal-breaker immediately, it will probably factor into his final decision. Poor Tar Heels, amirite?
Any recent news on Buckles? And what are the odds he would get the waiver to play right away should he come here #gophers
No news currently on Rakeem Buckles (with FIU last year). While I still think this will happen, there isn’t necessarily a big rush for it because as a graduate, he is not bound by the signing period (which ended May 15). It’s not a guarantee. If he does come to Minnesota, I think he will also get the NCAA waiver to play right away, because I don’t think he would make the decision to transfer again if he didn’t. Remember, this guy was at Louisville the year before – the only reason he isn’t GUARANTEED immediate eligibility – and sat out last year. I highly doubt he wants to sit out again, especially since he’s graduated, for one more year of school.
I’m honestly not sure what the hold up is, but it could be as simple as waiting for the APR numbers to come out and for a possible waiver to be official. I think that both he and Malik Smith will get that waiver, but while Smith had to make a calculated guess based on their chances, Buckles has the luxury of waiting until it’s official to make his move.
Flip Saunders recently critiqued Rodney Williams as not ready for the NBA. Is that due to coaching, team or player? #aMAILiaBAG
I don’t think you can say it was any one factor in a situation like that, and at this point, it’s impossible to really know how and if things could have been different. One of the things I was hoping to ask Rodney on Wednesday is whether he thinks about what could have been if he had the opportunity to play in Pitino’s system – one that is seemingly made for his skills (whenever the Gophers did manage to play up-tempo, Williams always looked pretty good). Unfortunately, we had about six minutes with him and the scrum was about 15 deep, so that particular question was never asked of him. One aspect of Williams’ shortcomings – his shooting – is hard to blame on anyone else because it’s simply a matter of him living in the gym and getting up shots. One could also argue if he had someone to better inspire him, the results could have been different. Williams has himself been very aware of getting so caught up in his mistakes that he can’t focus for the rest of the game. Could the right mentor have eased that tendency? Who knows. Rodney is a good kid, and I wish him the best moving forward. The past can’t be re-written, but it would have been fun to see him in Pitino’s run-and-gun game.
If the gophers plan to be a running team next year which big ten teams will try and run with them and which will likely work to slow it down ? Or does it just depend upon how good they are at running it in any given game? I live in Madison (it's tough) so I have one idea already!
I wouldn’t be surprised if most teams – at least at first – try to slow them down to see if they’ve got anything else. Oh yeah, Pitino? Now that you’ve recruited a team of athletes, how do you like this defense? Teams like Michigan and Indiana might run with them and just decide to do it better.
What is the team's (and Coach Pitino's) favorite snack foods? Getting ready for a big team sleepover #aMAILiabag
Here are a few suggestions, Goldy:
Andre Hollins: Cotton candy – Is there a happier snack in the world? Tell me.
Malik Smith: Twizzlers – So many threads (backgrounds, positions) all rolled into one pretty darn good player.
Dre Mathieu: Yoohoo – It’s how people call each other where he’s coming from (middle of nowhere, Arizona). Also: Rolos -- they're small and surprisingly good.
Austin Hollins: Ice pop – Isn’t it obvious? He cools down opposing offenses quick and then he just might ice the game.
Charles Buggs: Snickerdoodle – Maybe we can name his pre-game dance The Snickerdoodle. Other possibilities: ThePirate’s Booty, The Junior Mint.
Maverick Ahanmisi: Cracker jacks – Sometimes you get a nice surprise.
Daquein McNeil: Herseys -- The most loyal of candy bars.
Wally Ellenson: Cheetos – As in Cheetah. As in he’s fast and he jumps high. Get it?
Elliott Eliason: Slim Jim – This is so stereotypical of me.
Kendall Shell: Laffy taffy – He’s stocking up on jokes.
Mo Walker: Jack Links beef jerky – Don’t take offense, Mo. I LOVE sasquatch. (And the idea of one on the Gophers is very promising.)
Oto Osenieks: Pork Rinds – He’ll clean up the scraps, thank you very much.
No, I didn’t designate Butterfinger to anyone. You’re welcome.
BONUS BIGFOOT QUESTION:
What's the best piece of physical evidence you've discovered while #bigfoot hunting? #aMAILiabag
I found a leg once. A big, smelly, hairy leg paw with a foot that could put Mo Walker’s to shame. Found a skull that will make it to some museum somewhere soon. And … a baby bigfoot. Yeah, an adolescent. Gave him his first scotch.
OK, those are all lies. I wish I had something juicier to tell you about, but the fact is, I myself haven’t found any hard squatch evidence. But then, I have a day job. Sadly, these nuggets of bigfoot gold aren’t just laying around the forest – do you know how hard it is to even find a deer bone if you’re not trained in that regard?? – and I haven’t put the kind of time in to expect any results. My bigfoot searches are mainly just a) me hoping I’ll get incredibly, impossibly lucky and b) an excuse for me to get kind excited/terrified/spellbound/anxious in the woods.
Who doesn’t want that right? Hands? I’m not abnormal, right?
(Also, if I ever do find a BIGFOOT LEG in the woods, my sports reporting days might be over.)