There is a good chance the Gophers will get some news this week about whether Joey King will be available this season.
The University of Minnesota has submitted a waiver request for King to be eligible right away – based on a family situation – and is now waiting for the NCAA to make a decision.
It’s an announcement that could dramatically affect how the 2013-14 Gophers will look.
“We’re still waiting, hope to hear soon,” coach Richard Pitino said. “We’re optimistic but cautiously optimistic, but hopefully we’ll hear any day now. It’s in the NCAA’s hands.”
Even with King -- a 6-7 power forward transfer from Drake -- in the fold, the Gophers’ frontcourt would be incredibly thin. Otherwise, Minnesota has Elliott Eliason (who will almost surely start at center), Mo Walker (who has slimmed down by more than 50 pounds, but still might struggle with extended stints in an up-tempo system), Charles Buggs (who redshirted a year ago and has showed plenty of promise, but is very raw) and Oto Osenieks (who plays like a wing, but had just a .077 shooting percentage from 3-point range a year ago).
Pitino would almost certainly start King at power forward if he is available, lending the team to a somewhat more traditional lineup.
"Joey King has been physically very much ready to play," Pitino said. "He's the type of guy -- I think he could come in and make an impact."
If King is forced to redshirt, Pitino will have two options:
1. Start Charles Buggs at power forward or
2. Play a four-guard lineup.
Unless Pitino decides Buggs is ready for such a prominent role sometime in the next couple weeks, my guess is he’ll do the latter, inserting either Austin Hollins or Wally Ellenson at the 4-spot.
Here’s how the lineups could look:
Maverick Ahanmisi, Andre Hollins, Malik Smith, Austin Hollins, Elliott Eliason
Andre Hollins, Malik Smith, Austin Hollins, Wally Ellenson, Elliott Eliason
There are a few variations of those as well – Deandre Mathieu and Daquein McNeil could play the point; Daquein, Ahanmisi or Austin Hollins could play shooting guard; Ellenson could step in at small forward. With the flexibility and depth in the backcourt, creating a small ball lineup could be the best option, although it would leave the Gophers greatly exposed to the physicality and size of the Big Ten.
The NCAA has been liberal with granting waivers in recent years, but the Gophers have already been denied once this off-season, with Florida International transfer Rakeem Buckles unable to get approved for the same exemption as fellow FIU transfer Malik Smith. Buckles has since transferred back to FIU.