This season, things will be different for DeAndre Mathieu. That much is certain.
Last year at this time, no one knew what to expect from the journeyman point guard who started out as a walk-on at Morehead State before transferring to a junior in middle-of-nowhere, Arizona, and then Minnesota.
That's no longer the case.
After a breakout season in which Mathieu solidified himself as the Gophers' most valuable player, carrying the team to an NIT championship, the rising senior won't be sneaking up on anyone any longer. Rest assured the 5-foot-9 Mathieu's name will be highlighted on every scouting report.
"He looks like this young, baby-faced kid," Minnesota assistant coach Dan McHale said. "He wasn't on anyone's radar, and now he is."
Mathieu knows that simply maintaining the same numbers he did a year ago will be a challenge. He'll be defended differently, and trapped more often, as he began to see at the end of the year last year.
His solution? Get stronger, and better.
The Gophers staff said Mathieu has focused on three major aspects over the summer:
1. Packing on the muscle. Coach Richard Pitino said on Tuesday that Mathieu has added about 13 pounds this summer, which makes for 22 total pounds added since arriving in Minnesota last August, meaning he's gone from 156 to 178 in two summers. The goal, strength and conditioning coach Shaun Brown said, has always been for Mathieu to wind up at 180.
When the coaches return from recruiting trips, they marvel that Mathieu looks different, bigger. Each time. Another college coach that was visiting Minnesota earlier this spring saw Mathieu working out and dropped his jaw. The Knoxville native was tossing around 80-pound dumbbells as though they were styrofoam.
This guy is your is your point guard? he said, incredulously.
In terms of pure mass, Mathieu is probably the smallest player on the team. But he's stacked his compact frame with nothing but muscle.
"He looks like Mike Tyson," Brown said of Mathieu. "Pound-for-pound he's our strongest kid."
2. Shooting. It's tough to criticize the scoring ability of a guard who averaged 12 points a game in his first Big Ten season to go along with an average of 4.2 assists and 2.7 rebounds.
But if there's one area Mathieu could be more comfortable, it's with his shooting. He managed an impressive 48.9 percent from three-point range and 51.1 percent from the field, but often seemed hesitant to let it fly if he couldn't barrel to the rim -- clearly his preferred method of scoring.
Finding an offensive balance is going to be even more important with teams likely to pack the paint and try to take away the drive more often. With that in mind, Mathieu has been staying after workouts to get up dozens of extra three-pointers, off the dribble and off the catch.
"You need a confident player," McHale said. "When he gets going, he's a good shooter, he doesn't give himself enough credit for it ... he's taking pride in it."
3. Avoiding frustration.
Earlier this summer, McHale sat Mathieu down in his office for a little private film session. One by one the guard watched clips of himself getting upset, showing his emotions, looking dejected or angry on the court.
"Coach, I didn't even realize," he told McHale.
All year long, Pitino would get after Mathieu for letting his frustrations impact his play. Now that the guard has seen it himself, he's making a change in demeanor a focus.
"Everyone is relying on him," McHale said. "At times he didn't realize, he needs to be more of an upbeat and positive guy."
This fall, Mathieu's role will only grow. In his first year, he quickly gained the respect of his teammates. Around the Ohio State win in January, when Mathieu tallied 13 points along with five assists and four rebounds, the coaches began to realize what they had. Now, the dedication he's showing are making those qualities shine even more.
"He's embracing success and running with it," McHale said.