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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First Gophers basketball summer session is over; notes as players head home

Posted by: Amelia Rayno Updated: August 8, 2014 - 4:40 PM

Today marks the end of the first summer workout schedule, and the start of the official countdown to the season, which begins with fall practices in October.

In the meantime, players will head home for a much needed break. University of Minnesota basketball players began to leave campus earlier this week. By the end of Friday, they’ll all be done and headed for a three-week break, the longest stretch they get all year.

They won’t, however, be without basketball “homework” on their escape. Strength and conditioning coach Shaun Brown created take-home packets for each individual player, based on the resources available to them in their home towns (some have health club memberships, while others would be lucky to find a good place to run). Generally, the assignments include running, chin-ups and weight lifting for each player.

Awaiting them upon their return will be immediate tests – such as a timed mile run -- to cut through any white lies about how much working out they did on vacation.

“You’re going to tell when they get back,” Brown said. “So it’s kind of like fishing. You throw a line in the water and hope to catch something. If they don’t [work out enough while they’re gone], the only thing you can do is punish them with more work for the time they lost.”

A few notes on the early summer workouts:

*After gaining a lot of "good weight and muscle" early, point guard DeAndre Mathieu has leveled out around 175 pounds, Brown said. That gain represents about 23 pounds since last September, when the Knoxville native first arrived on campus. Along with the gain have come increased strength levels for a guard that was already extremely compact. "I do this for a living, so I know when guys move certain weights, they're pretty freakin' strong," Brown said. "And he is one strong dude." Brown also pointed out that Mathieu is among the most flexible and agile on the team as well. 

*One off-season after dropping 60 pounds, center Mo Walker has been tasked only with maintaining. The Gophers were happy with the weight at which he finished the season, preferring for the more fleet-footed Elliott Eliason to be the "lighter center." Said Brown: "He's got a range to stay in and he does it."

*Joey King has added 20 pounds since last summer, going from around 216 then to 236 now. The Gophers want him to stay right around that weight for his final two seasons with the team. "That's perfect," Brown said.

*Who is the most conditioned player on the team right now? Mathieu again, Brown said. A little more than a week ago, he gave the players a spontaneous mile test. Mathieu casually posted a five-minute mile. "Without practicing," Brown said. "I mean, that's moving ... and he wasn't even throwing up, he could have gone faster."

*The biggest surprise so far in Brown's eyes? That distinction belongs to Daquein McNeil. The sophomore, who last year gained valuable spot minutes and became something of a defensive specialist, has put on about 10 to 12 pounds, Brown said, while integrating smoothly and working extremely hard. "His strength, what he lifts per pound, body weight, he's got a big upside," Brown said. "And he's shown it. He's gotten very strong ... rightfully or wrongfully, you have these preconceived ideas of who they are and what their levels are, and this kid has just been a really pleasant surprise. He's ahead in a lot of the areas I thought he would struggle."

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