This is Amelia Rayno's second season on the Gophers' 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
New Gophers coach Richard Pitino has gotten three commitments in just more than a month's time.
Hours after news of Joe Coleman asking for his release late Tuesday evening, one of Pitino's former players at Florida International decided to jump on board.
Around 9:00 on Wednesday morning, guard Malik Smith tweeted the news, which he had been alluding to for days.
Smith will be eligible to play next season, a team source confirmed.
The guard played for Pitino last year at FIU, averaging 14.1 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 33.1 minutes a game. The 6-2, 170-pound junior, who has one year of eligibility left, is from Boston originally.
Smith represents Pitino's third commitment -- all guards -- since the new Minnesota coach took over. Pitino has had de-commitments from the two recruits already on board from Tubby Smith's class -- Alvin Ellis (now at Michigan State) and Alex Foster (who reportedly was told the team was going in a different direction). If Coleman indeed transfers -- official word could come today -- the Gophers will still have two scholarships remaining.
Smith would likely be available immediately by way of the NCAA waiver that allows student-athletes to transfer if their current institution is banned from postseason play. It looks as if FIU, due to dismal academic scores (recorded mostly under the tenure of former coach Isiah Thomas) will lose those privileges.
Here is the full exception, taken straight from the NCAA bylaws:
On the recommendation of the Committee on Athletics Certification for a student-athlete who transfers to
a member institution to continue the student-athlete’s opportunity for full participation in a sport because
the student-athlete’s original institution, per Bylaw 22.3.3, is placed in a membership category that would
preclude the institution’s team in that sport from participating in postseason competition during all of the
remaining seasons of the student-athlete’s eligibility.
(Adopted: 1/16/93 effective 1/1/94)
The Gophers basketball squad will be one player lighter than expected next season.
A team source confirmed on Tuesday night that guard Joe Coleman has asked for his release from Minnesota following a coaching change that saw Richard Pitino replace Tubby Smith, the man who recruited the junior-to-be.
The Gophers confirmed the news officially on Wednesday in a news release.
“Joe Coleman has made the decision to leave the Golden Gopher basketball program. We wish him the very best in the future,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said in a statement. “We appreciate the contributions he has given the program the last two years.”
The Minneapolis native, who averaged 8.7 points and 3.6 rebounds in 26.3 minutes a game last season as a sophomore, is the first to transfer under Pitino's watch. For a team that is relatively thin coming into the 2013-14 season, this is not necessarily good news, although Pitino has been stocking up on backcourt players since taking over in April.
Tthe Gophers' guard corps includes Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins, reserve Maverick Ahanmisi and incoming recruits Daquein McNeil, Dre Mathieu and Malik Smith -- the last of whom committed on Wednesday. With Coleman gone, the Gophers no longer have any Minnesotans on the roster (Chris Halvorsen is graduating and isn't expected back, either), after boasting four last season.
Pitino and the staff had said previously that they didn't expect any transfers, but such occurrances are not uncommon following a coaching change.
UPDATE: King's former high school coach, Mark Gerber, said that King has not contacted or been contacted by any schools at this time and that his primary focus right now is finishing up final exams.
It’s no secret that the Gophers are a little short on big men for next season.
While the Gophers have some options in Elliott Eliason, Charles Buggs and Mo Walker, other than the first listed, there are a lot of unknowns that go along with those possibilities. We’ve only seen Buggs play in a pair of exhibitions – even if he looked promising at times, the sample size and competition is not enough to make any assumptions. We simply don’t know what to expect from Walker, who officially returned from a knee injury last year, but didn’t play much, and was largely inconsistent.
Is new Gophers coach Richard Pitino still searching for players to root the frontcourt? I think he is, and there is a good chance Minnesota will sign at least one for next season (the Gophers have two scholarships remaining).
One possibility is 6-9 Joey King, who averaged 6.9 points and 2.9 rebounds last year at Drake, as a freshman. King, who graduated from suburban Eastview High School, announced that he would leave the program.
King, as an undergrad transfer, would normally have to sit out a season due to NCAA rules, but it’s possible (without knowing the extent of King’s situation) that the Gophers could seek a hardship waiver for the Minnesotan so he could play right away. King has told other media outlets that he is looking to play closer to home.
Another name that is gaining a bit of steam is 6-6 Josh Davis (from my home town of Raleigh, N.C., in other news), who is seeking a transfer from Tulane. As a graduate, he would also be eligible to play right away. Davis is reportedly getting interest from a number of schools, including San Diego State, Gonzaga, NC State, Illinois, Pittsburgh and Iowa State. Davis, who averaged over 17 points and 10 rebounds a game last season, was the only Conference USA player to average a double-double.
Otherwise, Minnesota is keeping its focus on Rakeem Buckles, who I think is the most likely big man to wind up at Minnesota next season. If he comes, he will need to be granted an NCAA waiver, so that could be the hold up with any news there. Tarik Black, on the other hand, is still on the market, but highly unlikely considering the competition for his services.
And we’re back! I know all of you were just dying without your weekly aMAILiaBAG for a month there. How did you even survive without it, you might wonder. Personally, I survived by getting out of dodge for a little while – which I will be doing in doses this summer – and doing all the things I wasn’t able to do during the season, like plow through the last year of movies (there were some good ones!) and of course get outside and pick up the abandoned search for Bigfoot (I see nothing has been accomplished during my hiatus).
The summer naturally brings a slower time of year for hoops news, so if you haven’t noticed already, I won’t be posting nearly as frequently. I promise I will publish anything newsy in this space, but if you’re not seeing a lot of activity in a particular week, well, you can put the dots together.
However, I would like to improve my off-season presence in any way I can. I’ll stick with occasional mailbags as long as I’m getting questions. And on that note, I’d love to hear any feedback you have from this past year on the blog. What did you like? What didn’t you like? What would you like to see more of? Less of? What’s your opinion of Bigfoot? (Trick question. I will only listen if I agree.) As a reminder, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading!
Now onto the questions:
(Your questions in bold; my responses in regular type)
Seems like Gophs offering lots of guys. Will [Richard Pitino] have scholarships if any of big three want to come? Is he conceding they won't?
New coach Richard Pitino and his staff have offered a lot of players – as most coaches do, because the liklihood that all of them are going to choose Minnesota is extremely rare.
What’s more, they have a lot of availabilities right now. With Alvin Ellis and Alex Foster each de-committing (whether by choice or by firm suggestion), the Gophers had four scholarships available for next season. They have now gotten commitments from two guards now (Daquein McNeil and now Dre Mathieu), which means they still have two spots available. Former coach Tubby Smith and staff planned to save at least one of those for the loaded 2014 class, and Pitino might do so as well, but keep in mind that two of the players the Gophers are hard after – Tarik Black and Rakeem Buckles – each only have a single year of eligibility left, meaning that their scholarships would open again after the season. I think it’s unlikely that Minnesota will get both of those players, but even if they got one and, say, another guard, they’d still have an extra opening for 2014 (plus those of Austin Hollins and Maverick Ahanmisi, who will graduate).
If you had to guess ... Who do you see in Pitino’s starting five? Can we expect to see a big role for Charles Buggs this year?
As of right now, I think there are going to be a lot of preseason competitions going on for spots, which will certainly keep things lively. At this time last year, we pretty much already had the starting five pegged.
There are a couple of ways the Gophers could go, and that decision could be largely impacted by whether Minnesota is able to sign a big man.
(Note: The signing period officially ends on May 15, but graduate players can sign anytime.)
If the Gophers can get Buckles (possible) or Black (less likely), they could throw out a lineup that looks like this:
Joe Coleman/ Daquein McNeil/ Wally Ellenson
With the players the Gophers currently have, we could see:
Joe Coleman/ Daquein McNeil/ Wally Ellenson
Or even a lineup with four perimeter players, like this:
Really, I think that the only real locks for spots are Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins. I think that despite the fact that the Gophers have signed two point guards in McNeil and Mathieu, Andre Hollins will still start at point, at least for now. There’s a chance one of those guys could earn the spot enough in the preseason, allowing the Gophers to take Hollins off the ball (where he’s best, IMHO), but for now, I think the rising junior still offers the best option at that position.
Eliason is most likely playing at center simply because the Gophers don’t have many options there. Mo Walker is in the picture as well, but he needs to do some serious conditioning before we talk about a major role for him. If he gets a starting spot, I don’t think it will be at the beginning of the season. Joe Coleman could be a guard that gets the nod, or just as easily become the sixth man – where I think he would thrive. From that standpoint, the other one or two guard spots are totally up for competition. Should be interesting.
Thanks for asst. Info. How do they compare against other Big Ten in both ages and experience?
I wish there was some great database of ages of assistant coaches, but there isn’t, and ages aren’t always reported. I can tell you that if you include Pitino in the conversation, it’s realistically one of the younger staffs in the nation, and relatively raw as well.
Do you think local media attention can be at all helpful in recruiting local kids?
I don’t think it hurts for these kids to see their names in the paper. I don’t think it hurts for them to be reminded that they’re wanted. These local kids for 2014, however, certainly have no shortage of that – not just from Minnesota media, but national media, and different outlets around the country. It’s just part of it.
Hi Amelia: Why do you think Izzo wanted Alvin and Pitino didn’t? Did Richard have too many guys who play Alvin’s position?
Well, that argument would be severely stunted by the fact that Pitino is recruiting a lot of guard types. I don’t know for sure that Pitino DIDN’T reach back out to Ellis (remember – Ellis decommitted before Pitino was announced), but while obviously many schools were interested in the wing, it doesn’t mean he was the best player for every program, or every style.
Great job of covering Gopher basketball. With Cameron Forte going to University of Georgia and Rakeem Buckles and Tarik Black taking time to make a final decision, would the Gophers ever consider Jake White from Wichita State? We’re a little “short” on big men, especially at power forward, for next year.
There’s a possibility that the Gophers would at least talk to White. The Chaska native played just 10.9 minutes a game a season ago, but averaged 3.6 points and 2.9 rebounds with his opportunity. The Gophers definitely could use some brawn for next year, but I haven’t heard about any specific contact with him yet.
Is [Mathieu] a big 'get' for the gophers? Better than what we have?
Better than what the Gophers have? That’s hard to say. Mathieu isn’t a 5-star recruit (he’s a 3-star), but he also could be helpful to Minnesota. I don’t think Pitino would sign guys just to fill spots – he’s made that plenty clear. Without a true point guard already on the roster, Mathieu could play an important role in backing up Andre Hollins or allowing him to play off the ball more.
#aMAILiaBAG with a new coach, do we expect players to be released from scholarship? I personally don't see Mo a Pitino type player.
Mo Walker will definitely have to get in shape. A source mentioned to the Star Tribune that it seems like, in the early goings, Walker has really bought into Pitino’s new brand and work ethic, which is supposedly pretty darn vigorous. If he works for it, and conditions ruthlessly, he could fit in. If he can’t (he’ll be required), his options would likely be to sit or leave.
The recent signing gives a good indication of the recruiting of the new staff. I question offering to all of these guards, especially if Freeman signs. Don't we want to hold on to as many scholarships as possible for the upcoming "big 3" class? How many guards do we have on team and will that hider the chances of signing a top player next year? Where are all of the big men?
Where are all the big men? Signed already! Why do you think the entire country is after Tarik Black? It was a bit of a thin year to start with and now, well, we’re in May. It’s going to be a challenge to find the right players to fill those holes. I know Pitino doesn’t want to sign any old big body just because they need one – and right now, the guard search is proving more plentiful.
I don’t think that the Big Three for 2014 would be scared off by a plethora of guards on the Minnesota roster – they know that if they signed with the Gophers, they’d start over anyone.
Should we be getting worried about our big man situation? Seems like Pitino is doing wonderful getting back-court help, but still nothing for the front-court.
Thoughts? Any possibilities?
It is a little troublesome, I do admit, when you look at what’s still available after the departures of Trevor Mbakwe, Rodney Williams and Andre Ingram. There’s Buggs (no collegiate experience), Walker (a liability to the pace), Eliason (fiery and a tough worker, but limited down low) and that’s about it except for Oto Osenieks, if you want to consider him a “big man.”
The fact is, whether fans want to look at it this way – next year will be a bit of a rebuilding year. Do you put someone on scholarship to fill a hole if he's not the right guy? Probably not. Even if it’s painful to have so few options.
Any news on rakeem buckles?
No – everything on that front is staying pretty hush-hush, and it’s tough to get information since Buckles is technically still at FIU. If the Gophers got him, they’d want him to play immediately, which would require a waiver. There’s a chance those details are being sorted out now. Remember – Buckles wouldn’t be constrained by the signing deadline because he will be a graduate. I wouldn’t be surprised if this does happen.
BONUS BIGFOOT QUESTION
Your thoughts on how accurately Harry and the Hendersons reflects what we know about Sasquatch. #aMAILiaBAG
Yep – it’s pretty much just like that.
JUCO guard Dre Mathieu officially signed his National Letter of Intent with the University of Minnesota on Wednesday, giving new coach Richard Pitino his second recruit for the upcoming 2013-14 season.
Mathieu, a 5-11 guard who spent last season at Central Arizona CC (where he averaged 17.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and 6.5 assists a game), has two years of eligibility remaining. He joins Daquein McNeil, who committed in April.
"Deandre is the type of player that fits our style of play, both offensively and defensively," Pitino said in a release. "He is an up-tempo point guard that does just about everything on the court, which was really evident in the numbers he put up last season. He is a great addition to our program.
Prior to his year at Central Arizona, Mathieu, a Knoxville, Tenn. native, walked on at Morehead State and ended up starting the last seven games of the 2011-12 season.
More on Mathieu here.
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