Richard Pitino recently convened his Minnesota squad to watch some film of a scrimmage.
No, not the Gophers’ ‘First Look’ public scrimmage at Williams Arena on Friday night – it was tape of his father, Rick Pitino’s team, Louisville, scrimmaging amongst themselves.
“I showed them a couple clips of them rebounding the basketball, being physical,” Pitino said. “I said ‘Guys that’s a top-5 team -- that’s what you want to be. There are teams in our conference who are like that. So if you want to go out and beat those guys, you need to pick up the intensity, you need to pick up the physicality.”
It’s been one of the biggest questions surrounding the Gophers heading into the season.
Where will the rebounds come from?
After losing top 2012-13 rebounders Trevor Mbakwe (8.7/game) and Rodney Williams (5/game), the query of who would fill the void is legitimate.
Between the two forwards and the losses of Julian Welch, Andre Ingram (both of whose eligibility ran out) and Joe Coleman (who transferred to St. Mary’s) – the Gophers went into the offseason down 20.5 a game.
Hitting the boards effectively will likely be a struggle for the undersized Gophers this season, especially at first. But after Friday’s scrimmage, Pitino’s plan is clear:
If the Gophers are to find success rebounding this season it will have to be a by-committee effort. It’s part of an overall endeavor to be more tenacious as a team.
“One of the things we’ve talked about is just being a little bit tougher, everybody pursuing the ball – guards and bigs,” Andre Hollins said. “He wants us guards to average 4, 5 ,6 rebounds. And that’s just going to make it easier for us to get down the court faster so we won’t have to get open and the bigs throw it to us. I think that’s one of weaknesses thus far, but we’ve been improving a lot.”
There is certainly room for more improvement. On Friday, Deandre Mathieu – while excellent otherwise – had two rebounds. Joey King had only three. Maverick Ahanmisi and Andre Hollins had just one each. But collectively, the team showed real progress. When in a scrimmage the week before, the MAROON team grabbed 18 rebounds and the GOLD team netted 17. On Friday, however, the squads recorded 21 and 33, respectively.
Noteably, Mo Walker led with nine, Oto Osenieks had seven, Wally Ellenson, six -- including four on the offensive end -- Elliott Eliason, five, and guard Malik Smith, four.
Whether they can continue to improve against Big Ten competition, is another story altogether – but for now, Pitino is content that his players seem to have received the message, and are adjusting their efforts appropriately.
“I thought they learned from that, which was very useful because they want to play with the best, they all want to do that,” Pitino said. “They listen. They’re absolutely coachable, and they’re willing to do what we’re asking them to do.”