Bakary Konate will be available Minnesota’s season opener vs. Missouri-Kansas City as expected, coach Richard Pitino said on Friday.
The 6-11 sophomore center, who has missed five weeks with a stress fracture in his left foot, will likely start with 6-9 sophomore Gaston Diedhiou, who started in two exhibition games, backing him up.
Pitino called Konate “a little bit raw,” but said he played to contact for 15 minutes on Wednesday and would get an additional 20 minutes after media access on Thursday. He doesn’t expect to limit Konate on Friday, he said, noting that he’ll “coach to win.”
“He moved very well yesterday,” Pitino said. “He didn’t look hurt, probably because we’ve been resting him. Who knows if we went a little bit longer, he would look hurt.
“I’m looking at him as full go …Now, if I don’t like what I’m seeing from a physicality standpoint, then we’ll have to adjust. But he was moving good.”
Pitino said freshman guard Kevin Dorsey is also expected to be available after sitting out in Sunday’s exhibition win over Southwest Minnesota State, suspended due to “failing to meet his academic obligations.”
“Kevin’s been good this week, so I anticipate him playing tomorrow,” Pitino said.
Pitino expounded a little on each of the three 2016 recruits the Gophers signed yesterday, but got a little extra excited when describing local phenomenon Amir Coffey. The 6-8 guard from Hopkins High School was ranked 33rd by ESPN.
“When I first saw him when I got the job two years ago, he was a guy we really wanted,” Pitino said. “He is an offensive mismatch nightmare. He is the type of guy when it comes to his size and skill, you see [players like that] in the NBA. Now, he’s got a long way to go, he’s got to put on a lot of weight obviously and he’s got to do a lot of things to get there. But he’s got the size, he’s got the skill, he’s got the versatility.
“He is a tremendous passer, really, really good passer. He’s improved his jumpshot. He looks healthy.
"When I watch him play, I get excited about some of the things offensively that we can do with him because we run a lot of pick and rolls and when you’ve got a guy with size coming off ball screens, it’s a lethal weapon.”
For the second year, Pitino has banned his players from participating in Twitter during the season. He started the policy last year after the team started Big Ten play 0-5 and some of his players alerted him to “crazy” things that were being tweeted at them.
Last year, “it might have been a little late,” he said. But this year, he’s looking to be preemptive.
“I don’t think it’s real good to make guys available to the general public,” he said. “And the crazy thing is, they don’t know who it is or where it’s coming from.”
But Pitino isn’t above having a little fun with the subject. He joked that the one positive of the social media giant is that “it’s ruins you all’s lives,” referencing the humble press spread out before him.
The coach nodded at Pioneer Press writer Marcus Fuller, who was doing his press conference duties like the rest of us and the following light-hearted exchange ensued.
Pitino: Like you’re not even listening to me right now, you’re tweeting.
Marcus: Oh, I’m listening.
Pitino: Are you tweeting?
Marcus: I’m listening.
Pitino: But are you tweeting?
Pitino: See that’s the problem we’re really trying to fix one social media member at a time.
"With our guys, I want them so focused on blocking out the outside noise, and this is a little way to do it. Who knows if it will work, but it’s in our control and we’ll try to do it."
The Gophers and their loyal media followers head to Puerto Rico next week for the Puerto Rico Tip-off. It's the final tournament on Minnesota's schedule that was arranged by former coach Tubby Smith (who, coincidentally will also be there, with Texas Tech). Pitino said he does not have any future Thanksgiving-time tournaments currently booked, and will be more likely to consider two-game tournaments (similar to last year's NIT Season Tipoff) in the future.