The transfer of Joe Coleman has been picked over plenty in the last week as the decision relates to next year’s team and whether it will be better or worse off without him.
It’s hard to say, really, whether the rising junior would have taken the next step under Richard Pitino, improving on his defense and decision-making away from the ball while maintaining the aggressive attack that made him at times successful.
But the loss of Coleman also brings a less obvious side effect, one that could have some Gophers fans’ antsy: without him, Minnesota lacks any homegrown talent on the roster.
A year ago, the Gophers had an impressive three Minnesotans in the starting lineup with Trevor Mbakwe, Rodney Williams and Coleman helping to anchor the team. Andre Ingram, a Minneapolis native, contributed off the bench while Chris Halvorsen, a walk-on, played occasional minutes.
With Mbakwe, Williams, Ingram and Halvorsen graduating, Coleman was the only Minnesotan remaining on the roster. So without anyone, now, that hails from the home to 10,000 lakes, will the pressure be turned up on Pitino to grab some more locals quickly?
Snagging players from a team’s backyard isn’t always of paramount concern to a coaching staff, of course. And Pitino’s main goal right now seems to be simply gathering players that will fit his system and make the coming rebuilding year a little less painful. At this point, it doesn’t look like there will be a Minnesotan on the roster for next season.
But come 2014 and beyond, the field is ripe for the picking. Will Minnesota fans – who no doubt like to see their own being highly regarded on the local sports scene – be feeling a bit impatient by then?
The most talked about locals for next year are, of course, the “Big Three” of Tyus Jones, Rashad Vaughn and Reid Travis. Beyond that impressive trio, however, there are plenty of others in state that have impressed, from J.P. Macura next year to Jarvis Johnson, Alex Illikainen and Sacar Anim in 2015 to Amir Coffey and Brock Bertram in 2016.
Does getting some of those players just for the sake of getting some locals mean everything? No, it doesn’t. But with the state churning out some pretty solid players in the last few years (and possibly four Minnesotans in this year’s draft with Mbakwe, Williams, Mike Muscala and Nate Wolters), it’s understandable that Gophers’ fans would want in on some of that.
Sometimes things happen the way they did this year – and none of this is to say that Pitino should have done something differently to get Coleman to stay. But it’s interesting side of the matter -- if Coleman stays, some of that pressure might be quelled a bit. Without him, I wouldn’t be surprised if fans are itching for home state representation.