The University of Minnesota basketball staff was excited about this summer for redshirt sophomore Charles Buggs.
After showing flashes of offensive brilliance in his first year playing, Buggs appeared poised to take the next step toward realizing his lofty potential. The offseason would be big for that development.
Instead, the forward hit a minor roadblock: knee surgery.
Buggs underwent a procedure in April to clear out cartilage that had been building up in his right knee. It was a minor operation, McHale said, but the rehabilitation has slowed down his summer workouts a bit.
"He's one guy that could have really benefitted from a full summer, but you can't control it," McHale said. "It's still early. He's still going to have July and August in getting ready for next year."
As of the end of last week, Buggs still hadn't been permitted to do anything that involves contact in practice. He's been doing some light shooting during his rehab, McHale said, along with lifting and riding the stationery bike.
"We've not going to rush him back," the assistant coach said. "We've just got to make sure his knee is 100 percent."
One of the Gophers' major goals for Buggs this summer was to add bulk and muscle. He's done that -- managing to add about 15 pounds despite the setback -- and the team is happy with where his weight is now. But beyond the physical transformation, Buggs -- who remains raw after playing just 6.7 minutes a game last year and redshirting the year before -- could have benefitted from the extra situational exercises and defensive drills.
Last season, the Texas native averaged 1.7 points and 1.1 rebounds a game, but had a couple of big highlights in the conference slate. Against Iowa, coach Richard Pitino subbed in Buggs for just his third Big Ten appearance ever. The forward promptly caught fire from the perimeter, sinking three shots from behind the arc, and tallying 13 points in all.
Up until that point, Buggs had played no more than two minutes in a Big Ten game. That day, he was given 19, and looked like one of the team's most exciting offensive players.
Consistency, though, along with finding that effectiveness on the other end of the court, have been Buggs' greatest struggles. He averaged 6.7 minutes a game for the rest of the year, and managed to score just 0.6 points a game in that span, while often looking like a liability on defense.
"He's the type of kid that showed flashes," McHale said. "If the light bulb goes on, he's an extremely talented player. He's a good kid, and that's what you want. He's a pleasure to be around. If he can reach his full potential, I mean, wow. It would definitely be a big benefit for us."
The team is hoping he'll still have a chance to show such growth next year. McHale said if Buggs can improve his ball handling over the summer, the coaches might consider playing him some at small forward as well as power forward, which would give him more opportunities to get on the floor.
"He's an athletic combo forward," McHale said. Everyone could see what he did against Iowa. When he just plays and doesn't think and doesn't worry about his mistakes and just focuses on what he can do to help us win, the kid can really help us."