Doesn’t get better than getting to hang with members of the Gophers basketball team on the same day you stuff your face with cheese curds, cookies and all types of meat on a stick at the Minnesota State Fair.
That’s basically how I spent my Wednesday this week at the University of Minnesota and Star Tribune fair booths and interview stages.
Of course, other than a stomach ache at the end of the day from not knowing when to quit eating, I also had a recorder full of Gophers notes from my fun and interesting chat with Gophers forwards Jordan Murphy and Eric Curry. Richard Pitino also talked about newcomers and gave some injury updates.
These are some of the highlights of my interview at the Star Tribune stage with Murphy and Curry:
MURPHY ON CURRY: “Seeing Eric work hard this summer definitely inspired me. Seeing him get in the gym those late nights with those long rehab sessions he had. Just watching him go through that was a testament to his work ethic, spirt, heart and passion he has for this team. Definitely hat off to him trying to get healthy.”
FRONTCOURT HELP: “All these guys are really talented and really smart. They have no problem gelling and meshing with the rest of the team. I really think highly of these guys and how talented they are as far as the frontcourt goes. They’re working hard. They just have to continue to listen to coaching and work hard. Most definitely (will have best frontcourt in Big Ten). No doubt.”
TEAM GOALS: “It’s everyone’s goal to be on top of the Big Ten. That’s pretty much everybody’s goal at this point. Definitely make the tournament, be on top of the Big Ten and make the conference tournament. That’s pretty much what I want to cap off my last year.”
OFFSEASON WORK: “I pretty much worked on everything. I wouldn’t say I’m satisfied with my game and how I performed in games. I’m a guy who just has to go over everything. And make sure every aspect of my game is air tight. Just making sure there’s nobody who can stop me.”
ON JARVIS OMERSA (freshman forward): “He’s up there. He’s up there. He definitely has some outstanding athleticism. It’s like ‘wow’ every practice. There are times when he gets ahead of himself. But I think he’s learning and keeping an open mind. He definitely wants to learn. He asks the right questions. Sometimes he just has to realize he has a lot to learn, but he has time to do it.”
SIMILARITIES TO HIMSELF: “A little bit. We definitely had the same mindset coming in our freshman year. I can see a little bit of myself in him. I think I was a little bit better shooter my freshman year (joking).”
ON ISAIAH WASHINGTON: “I definitely think his mentality is different coming into this year. He’s definitely learned a lot and grown a lot as a person. So I think that really helped him. He’s blocking out a lot of outside noise and just focusing on himself and his game. That’s where he needs to be at this point, so I’m really proud of him on that aspect.”
ON AMIR COFFEY AND DUPREE MCBRAYER LEADERSHIP: “Both of those dudes first and foremost are two of the most talented players on the team for sure. They’re definitely very skilled guards and great defenders. With their experience guarding every team’s best player they have a lot to give us defensively. They have a lot offensively to give and are very high IQ players. So they have a lot they can teach the younger guys. They can past that down to them.”
ON BROCK STULL ADDITION: “It brings a whole different perspective to the team. What Akeem (Springs) brought was very valuable with his shooting and his leadership. He was one of the more outspoken people on that (NCAA tournament) team. I think with Brock hopefully he can bring that same energy and passion for the game that Akeem brought.”
CURRY ON INJURY RECOVERY: “In the beginning stages I really listened and I was taking my time. I didn’t push or press anything. Not complaining. Towards the end of the summer when I got healthy I started to play 5-on-5. They limited my time, so I started to get a little bit impatient. I was like ‘Coach, put me in and let me practice more. I’m ready.’ But I Iove what they’re doing with it. I’m not going to rush it. It’s not just for right now. They’re looking out for my future.”
CURRY ON HIS SKILLS: “Last year, before I got injured my three-point shot was really outstanding. I wanted to show that I could really shoot and stretch the floor. I couldn’t do that my freshman year. So I expanded it last summer. This year after rehabbing and working, I’m really scared. It’s just a confidence thing to drive, so my jumper has gotten good again. Because I’m scared to drive in the lane.”
CURRY ON OTURU: “He’s an elite shot blocker. So that helps us a lot, because we lost Reggie (Lynch). And he was an elite shot blocker as well. So that adds to the team. He’s very mobile big, so that helps us defensively as well.”
CURRY ON PAYTON WILLIS (former AAU teammate and Vanderbilt transfer): “He brings a lot of leadership as well in the backcourt. He’s going to push Isaiah in practice. He’s got college experience. Helping Isaiah, Amir and Dupree out in practice and helping them be the best they can be will help him contribute this year.”
PITINO INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS (here’s a link to the video):
- Redshirt sophomore Eric Curry, who missed last season with a knee injury, is looking good despite having his reps limited at the end of summer practice for precaution. Pitino expects him to be fully cleared in mid-September.
- Curry and freshman center Daniel Oturu (shoulder) will be ready to play for the Nov. 6 opener against Nebraska-Omaha. Junior Amir Coffey (shoulder) and senior Dupree McBrayer (leg) are already ‘full go’ after being sidelined the end of last season.
- Wisconsin-Milwaukee graduate transfer Brock Stull arrived in Minnesota on Tuesday and joined the team. "It's just a matter of teaching him the system and getting him in basketball shape now," Pitino said.
- No word from the NCAA on the waiver sent by the U on behalf of Pittsburgh transfer Marcus Carr to be eligible to play immediately since his coach was fired in the spring.
- Freshman guard Gabe Kalscheur was one of the biggest surprises of the summer practices. Pitino said Kalscheur had a "terrific summer," and is very serious about the game, which is different for freshmen. He isn’t just a shooter. He has great work ethic, understands the game and should help on the defensive side right away. Also, the former DeLaSalle star is taller and bigger than he’s listed at 6-foot-4 and 180 pounds (more like 6-5 and around 200).
- Senior center Matz Stockman "never left" the U, because he wasn't able to graduate this summer to transfer to Cal, Pitino said on KFAN 100.3 on Wednesday. How the 7-1 former Louisville transfer fits in the rotation is unclear, but Pitino said he's "very skilled."