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.

  Follow Rayno on Twitter @AmeliaRayno

aMAILiaBAG: recruiting, Big Three, tonight's scrimmage, player roles going forward

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers players, Recruiting, Richard Pitino Updated: October 18, 2013 - 12:29 PM

Send questions for future aMAILiaBAGs to amelia.rayno@startribune.com or to @AmeliaRayno on Twitter.

Everyone getting excited about Gopher basketball yet? Don't forget, tonight is your first chance to see the team live at Raise the Barn -- First Look open scrimmage. It's free! Plenty to talk about, so let's dig right in with this one.

Any update on King?

@NOELTHOMPSON

At long last, yes! Obviously you sent this question before last night, but just to recap, the NCAA approved Drake transfer's waiver to play immediately. Huge boost for the Gophers.

Chances with Elijah Thomas?

@Mn_Sports8

It’s hard to say considering the 2015 big man just released a, um, “list of 24” on Twitter … I think he’s making it pretty clear that he is wide open right now. That said, I think Minnesota has as good a chance as any school at the moment. The Gophers got in at a good time and have built the relationship.

What's the latest on Nate Mason and Squirrel?

@RennyFantasy

Both of these guys have gone all deep cover on us in the last week. Mason, a combo guard from Maryland, could do another visit or two before making his decision; Squirrel – aka Carlos Morris, the Florida JUCO shooting guard – has been busy with a couple of jamborees this month. He has talked about doing a visit to UAB before making his decision, but I’m not sure whether that is scheduled. Both I expect will make a decision before the early signing period.

Where does Delshon Strickland rank in Gophers recruiting list?

@BasilHofer

The Gophers talk with him, and he has been on campus, but he isn’t a top priority right now.

People say MN big 3 signing with gophers a long shot - but each have spent considerable time on MN campus...why?

@jonny_nelson

Why are they still considered a long shot? Well, in general, when kids – such as Tyus Jones, Reid Travis and Rashad Vaughn -- have been recruited for years and a coach tries to jump in six months before decision time, that coach’s school is considered an underdog. So that’s No. 1. Really strong relationships have been built elsewhere. That’s not to say it’s impossible to get a recruit in that situation, just that it is a disadvantage. And remember – these kids are not just any local recruits – they are ELITE talent. It’s not easy. The Gophers staff knows it’s not easy. You have to put a lot of time in. Getting them to spend time on campus is fantastic, but with these guys a quick car ride away (or in Travis’ case more like a few steps away), being there isn’t necessarily indicative. They like basketball, they like attention to an extent and hey – there is a major-conference school in their backyards.

Do you think Austin's shooting slump was an aberration and if not, will Malik replace his minutes?

@jmag21

Replace his minutes? What? Are you kidding? No one is replacing Austin Hollins’ minutes on that team – as he is arguably the most talented player on the court. Yes, the shooting slump he endured late in the season last year was an aberration. Even the best players go through slumps sometimes. He started to come out of it, come postseason, if you’ll remember. Really, it was weird more than anything -- no one works harder than that guy. It’s a pretty good bet that he won’t start the season that way. And in any case, his shooting is hardly his only contribution to the team. Hollins is always affecting the game, whether it’s with his shooting, with his stifling defense, getting his hands everywhere, or his leadership.

We have any time table on when Mason or Morris may look to commit?

@Manderson1984

Probably pretty soon here – maybe in the next 2-3 weeks.

#aMAILiaBAG Interesting how a new coach raises hope and lowers expectations, re: how would Tubby be viewed with a recruiting F?

@MNfan4ever

Terribly. But I don’t think Pitino is really getting praised for it, either. The difference, though, is that if former coach Tubby Smith was still around, he would have had the entire previous summer and fall to solidify commits. Pitino just had the spring … by then, most recruits have already committed, which is why he went the way of a JUCO, two transfers and a guy that had committed to him at his previous school. I don’t really think it’s the hype, so much as the circumstances that give Pitino a pass. He’ll get judged plenty for what he brings in later on down the road, but with the 2013 class it’s simply not a fair judge to make.

What is Wally's role on this team? And will the desire to bulk him up to assist rebounding interfere with his track ambitions?

@jmag21

I think Wally Ellenson could have a much bigger role this season, considering his athleticism and quickness is perfect for Pitino’s system. Before we knew that King was eligible right away, the thinking was that he could be a consistent starter, even at the 4-spot. I’m not sure there’s really as much of an effort to “bulk him up” as there is to just get him to channel his athleticism toward rebounding, particularly on the offensive end. It wouldn’t hurt to put on a few pounds if he is expected to bang around with the Big Ten frontcourts, but then again, this team will never be that. They are going to have to try to play to their strengths – which should be quickness and shooting.

Thinking about heading to open scrimmage Friday... Think it's worth it?

@thekula21

I say yes. It’s true that you can’t tell too much from these things (Team vs. itself? I’ll take the Gophers in this one), but it is your first chance to really see the team in action, and personally, I think the game format will be a lot more interesting than this Midnight Madness madness. It’s the start of a new college hoops season – get excited!!!

What do you think of Pitino's method of disc his players' strengths and weaknesses publicly? Is he only B1G coach w a blog?

@5844cx

I think it’s awesome, and that’s not just the reporter side of me. In his blogs, he is careful to point out both positive and negative observations, which I think brings a good balance and motivation for the players. He believes in them, he is encouraging – but he’s also making it clear that they have a long ways to go. For the fans, it provides something real, something other than CoachSpeak (don’t you get tired of that?). I don’t know of any other Big Ten coaches with blogs, but I think it’s a great idea. Don’t be surprised if the blogs taper off quite a bit when the season starts, however.

Reid Travis seems to be giving the U quite a bit of consideration. He's visited campus many times unofficially, and will be doing an official in the near future. With that, I'd like to think his interest is legit and that UM has as much of a shot as anyone at this point. Yet, many people say it is really a very long-shot that he goes to UM. Is it just that Duke is such a higher profile school that people assume that's where he's leaning, or are there other indications out there that suggest he doesn't have Minnesota at the top of his list? Thanks!

Aaron

A lot of the “favorite” talk in regards to recruits comes from people talking. People that talk to the kid, talk to those who are involved with the recruitment, talk to the parents, talk to his high school coaches, etc. No, it’s not scientific, and it’s mostly not public, since a lot of this stuff is off-the-record, but it’s certainly more than “Hey, this place has a nice facility” (that’s a lot of places, right?). Sometimes the perceptions of a favorite turn out to be correct; sometimes they don’t. Take it for what it is.

BONUS BIGFOOT QUESTION:

When does the new season of Finding Bigfoot start? Didn't Les Stroud go on a big adventure looking too?

@jessejames3ball

Finding Bigfoot is back Nov. 10 – which I am very pumped about. Gonna be a great season.

And yes, there is a two-part Survivorman Bigfoot special – called Survivorman Stalking Sasquatch – airing sometimes next year. It could be interesting, although the experience they seem to be touting the most apparently happened when the camera was off.

More bigfoot in the news: a UK scientist is claiming he can prove that Yeti are related to an ancient polar bear. Personally, I don't understand this at all. Seems to me that the wrong DNA was tested. Everything we know about Yeti establishes pretty well that they are not in the bear family. <insert jokes here>

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