Gophers coach Richard Pitino will be down a starter for Tuesday’s game against North Florida with senior guard Dupree McBrayer spending time with his family in New York after the death of his mother a week ago.
McBrayer will attend a wake Tuesday, but he played in wins against Nebraska and Arkansas State after his mother, Tayra McFarlane, died from cancer last Monday. Pitino, who helped the team raise over $15,000 for McBrayer’s family to cover funeral expenses, and the players and coaches are all flying out to be at McFarlane’s funeral Wednesday.
“I think that’s what makes this place special is the support we get,” Pitino said. “If you watched the Nebraska game that was emotional for everybody.”
In McBrayer’s absence, Pitino likely will look to another senior guard, Brock Stull, to fill one of the backcourt spots alongside junior Amir Coffey and freshman Gabe Kalscheur. This will be the first time the Gophers (8-2) play with a different starting lineup this season.
“The good thing is Brock is getting better; he’s getting more comfortable,” Pitino said. “We weren’t with him for five or six months, but I think this month will be a great month for him to really, really get in great shape. He’s worked very, very hard to do that.”
Pitino expected Stull to help the Gophers after landing the 6-4, 210-pound graduate transfer out of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the spring. Stull couldn’t join the team until the fall after he finished enough credits this summer to graduate with a degree in criminal justice. While pursuing a master’s degree in sports management, Stull’s adjustment has been a slow one on the court playing at a major conference program.
McBrayer is averaging 9.9 points, 2.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 10 games this season, which included 14 points and four assists in Saturday’s 72-56 win against Arkansas State. Stull, who averaged 13.5 points, 6.6 rebounds and a team-best 3.1 assists last season with Milwaukee as a junior, is averaging just 2.5 points in 9.5 minutes this year.
Stull went scoreless for five games before his six points on two three-pointers in 10 minutes Saturday. He’s been trying to do extra conditioning on the treadmill every day, except before games.
“I don’t like to always go up there and do extra running,” Stull said Saturday. “I’m still doing it, and I feel like I’m in pretty good shape. Hopefully, better things come in the future.”
Pitino won’t just count on Stull with McBrayer gone. He’ll also give junior forward Michael Hurt and sophomore guard Isaiah Washington chances.
Being down two starters would’ve been a major blow, but freshman Daniel Oturu didn’t severely injure himself Saturday, suffering a sprained right ankle. Oturu had a career-best 19 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks before leaving the game limping with three minutes left in the second half.
Pitino said last week that he was hopeful to have big man Eric Curry make his season debut Tuesday, but the redshirt sophomore hasn’t been fully cleared yet in practice after recovering from surgery in October on his previously injured left knee.
Much like Stull could get a chance to show more of what he can do without McBrayer, Oturu has already taken advantage of replacing Curry so far.
“We’ll just slowly bring him in and see how he responds,” Pitino said of Curry in practice. “If there’s a positive of Eric being hurt [it] is that Daniel has had to play.”