This is Amelia Rayno's third season on the Gophers men's basketball beat. She learned college basketball in North Carolina (Go Tar Heels!), where fanhood is not an option. In 2010, she joined the Star Tribune after graduating from Boston's Emerson College, which sadly had no exciting D-I college hoops to latch onto. Amelia has also worked on the sports desk at the Boston Globe and interned at the Detroit News.

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Gophers notes: Freshmen supposed to play, Mbakwe will see time at 5, Welch loses weight ... and more

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers players Updated: October 24, 2012 - 4:16 PM
*Things got a little hectic recently, with all the Gophers' off-court drama occupying most of my time. With the dust slightly settled, there were some leftovers in my notebook from my Gophers' media day I wanted to share.*
 
The depth of the Gophers was maybe the most lauded aspect of the team on media day. After all, it is a striking difference from a year earlier, when the frontcourt in particular was woefully thin.
 
Yet as coach Tubby Smith looks ahead to the coming season, he doesn’t anticipate trying to redshirt either freshmen, Wally Ellenson or Charles Buggs, he said on Gophers media day.
 
“We won’t discuss that until we’ve gotten up to the first game to take a look and see how they’re doing and then we’ll make a decision then, but I doubt if they’ll be redshirting,” he said. “I like both of their energy and athleticism, they’re very coachable, so that’s No. 1, that means they’ll do what we tell them to do.”
 
Both are plenty athletic and both have a nice shot. But both need to develop substantially, especially from a defensive standpoint. And with Buggs wanting to gain about 15 pounds to help him bang around in the paint with the Big Ten’s bigs, it would seem to make sense.
 
Of course, if Trevor Mbakwe’s status were to change, the need for Buggs would increase some.
 
 Some other notes as the Gophers are in their second week of practice:
  • Julian Welch could be playing all over the place this year. With Andre Hollins as the starting point guard, Welch is the clear backup, but the senior said he plans to also see minutes at shooting guard and small forward. He’s been practicing at all three.
  • Welch said he lost 15 pounds over the summer, a goal heading into this season. He looks significantly slimmer than last year, when he appeared to gain some weight near the end of the season. Welch said he’s right where he wants to be now, weight-wise.
  • When asked how he thought Rodney Williams would adjust to playing small forward again after a successful end to his year at power forward, Smith sort of matter-of-factly said “Trevor will play more 5, probably,” chuckling. After that, Smith back-tracked to say that Williams would play some at 3 and that he is versatile enough to do so. I think that caught some people by surprise because the Hollins-Hollins-Welch/Coleman-Williams-Mbakwe lineup was considered to be the less likely option.
  • Williams did say he’d been working on his wing technique over the summer, getting back to the basics of guard-like play. “We had a lot of individual workouts and things like that this summer, working on ball handling and shooting, so that was one of the main focuses for this summer, just getting back to playing the guard position."
  • Smith said that while Mbakwe’s knee is technically 100 percent, there is still a gap in the sixth-year senior’s conditioning. “Honestly, he’s winded,” Smith said. “[Thursday] we went a couple hours and you could tell that he was fatigued and that’s why we’ve got to watch what he does as far as his knee and conditioning is concerned. He hasn’t done any running at all, up and down and then pushing and shoving and rebounding. The intensity of his play kind of dropped off at the end of practice yesterday.”
  • Elliott Eliason said that with Mbakwe and Mo Walker back in practices, he’s gotten plenty of bumps and bruises. “It’s good in the fact that it gets you better, but man, it’s tough, getting in there and battling all day in practice,” he said. “I think I give a few [bruises] back, so it’s all good.”
  • Eliason is expected to start the season at center as the team tries to ease Mbakwe back into play.
  • Andre Hollins said his weight hasn’t changed, but he admitted to being in the gym a lot over the summer, weight-lifting. Smith’s response to the sophomore’s new toned figure was pretty great. “I don’t know about trimmed down, but I think he’s turned some of that little baby fat,” he said, chuckling. “You’re right, he did have a little puffy body. I used to call him the Pillsbury Dough Boy, but he’s starting to look a lot better.” 

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