Nate Mason, a 5-11 guard, tweeted Friday that he was committing to the Gophers basketball team.
The speedy combo guard seems to be a good fit for coach Richard Pitino’s uptempo system. The Georgia native also considered Kansas State and Virginia.
“I felt very comfortable with the coaches and the style of play fit me,” Mason told SNY.tv. “The academics are great. The coach is young with a chip on his shoulder. He’s gonna push me to be great. I thought that was the best fit for me.”
Mason joins Seattle power forward Josh Martin in the Gophers’ 2014 class.
Prairie Seeds coach out
Youssef Darbaki has stepped down after five years coaching the Prairie Seeds Academy boys’ soccer team, one of the state’s most successful and controversial.
Darbaki will coach the inaugural men’s club soccer team at Minnesota International University, a school sharing the Prairie Seeds Academy building in Brooklyn Park. He did not coach any Prairie Seeds games this season but still works at the charter high school in a student support capacity.
Prairie Seeds, coached much of the season by Pedro Amusu, lost 2-1 to North St. Paul in the Class 2A soccer state quarterfinals Thursday night. The Lycans opted up to 2A this season after winning the Class 1A title in 2010 and taking second in 2011.
Prairie Seeds reached the 2012 tournament last fall but was disqualified after an investigation by the Minnesota State High School League found that the team used an ineligible player during the regular season. No team had been disqualified from a Minnesota state tournament since 1961.
An eligibility question also marred the school’s tournament appearance in 2011 when the age of a player was called into question. He sat out two games and was cleared to play 15 minutes before the championship game.
Darbaki insists Prairie Seeds did nothing wrong during his tenure and insisted that racism — the team draws from the school’s large minority and immigrant populations — was an underlying cause of fear among high school coaches.
In the wake of the league investigation, Prairie Seeds stripped Darbaki of his duties as the school’s activities director. He was replaced by former Apple Valley all-state soccer and all-state football player Jason Obarski.
He pieced together a regular-season schedule despite 50 game requests for games either denied or ignored.
DAVID LA VAQUE
• Gophers junior guard Rachel Banham was named to the preseason top-30 list of candidates for the John Wooden Award, which goes to the top player in women’s college basketball. She was an All-Big Ten first-team selection last seasonm, when she averaged 20.7 points per game.
• The Gophers women’s cross-country team, ranked No. 15 nationally, will host Jack’s Twilight Run at 6 p.m. Saturday at the University of Minnesota Les Bolstad Golf Course. It’s a 6K run that honors Jack Johnson, the late longtime Gophers equipment manager who died in 2006. The public is invited. Donations to two charities will be accepted.