Weekend Notebook: Jayhawks willing to face Minnesota at The Barn

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  • September 18, 2009 - 4:25 PM

Throughout Minnesota's recent history, it's been suggested that the reason major schools don't come to Williams Arena is because they don't want to risk a loss in such a unique and hostile environment.

Earlier this week, Joe Esposito, Minnesota's director of basketball operations who handles scheduling, sent out this tweet: 

"Noone will play us.... Louisville just said no, Marquette no, Florida no, Iowa State no..... I'll keep trying."

Athletic director Joel Maturi said recently that the school turned down numerous top-level opponents for the upcoming season because they weren't willing to play at Williams Arena.

But Kansas' Larry Keating, the school's associate athletic director and head of scheduling, said earlier this week that the Jayhawks don't have a problem playing the Gophers at The Barn.

Kansas was reportedly interested in a series with the Gophers, following its trip to Minneapolis during the NCAA tournament in March. But it never happened.

A source close to the team told me that one of the problems was that the Jayhawks wanted to play at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, not Williams Arena.

Keating said that's not the case and added that he expects a series between the two schools to be solidified once they can find open dates.

"We’ve never had any discussion about playing anywhere else," Keating said. "Tubby [Smith] and Bill [Self] have talked on a couple of occasions about trying to work out a series. The dates haven’t worked out yet. I’m sure at some point in the future, they’ll probably play. There's never been anything about playing anywhere else but Williams Arena."

-Now that the Gophers have a verbal commitment from Nebraska center Elliott Eliason, they're hoping to get another one after this weekend, when Tennessee prep standout Austin Hollins, son of Memphis Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins, travels to Minneapolis for his official visit. 

Hollins, a 6-4, 170-pound wing has narrowed his list down to Arkansas, Memphis and Minnesota. He told me a few hours before he left for Minneapolis Friday that the Gophers are the favorites right now.

"I’ve only talked to three of the coaches on the [Minnesota] staff," Hollins said Friday. "I like all three of them. They’re all personable. They’re all classy and everything. They push for the best. I’m excited to come up there this weekend and see what it looks like and meet the players."

Hollins described himself as a team player. He averaged nearly 16 points per game for Germantown High School in Germantown, Tenn. His AAU coach, Alex Waddey, said Hollins runs the floor well, rebounds of both ends of the court and plays stronger than he looks.

"He’s a great shooter; he shoots it well from beyond the arc and shoots it well in the midrange," Waddey said. "He’s very long. ... He can get a shot off against shorter players, he can shoot over the top of people. He’s also an asset because he actually rebounds, being a big guard."

Hollins' father said he's known Tubby Smith since the latter's days at Georgia. Despite his pedigree and knowledge of the game, Lionel Hollins said his son will make his own choice.

"I think [Minnesota] has a lot of positives," said Lionel Hollins. "They play in a big conference. Nice fan base, fans are rabid. ... My son is the one that’s going to be making a decision."

The younger Hollins said he doesn't think he'll make a decision in the near future but expects to commit prior to the early signing period.

Remember, Gophers fans. Eliason said the same thing a week ago.

Here's a look at Hollins: 


-Tubby Smith's Friday tweet: "We are looking forward to another great weekend on campus. Best of luck to Coach Brewster and the Gophers as they take on a tough Cal team."





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