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

Posts about Tubby Smith

Gophers nab first recruit for 2013; local Washington commits elsewhere

Posted by: Amelia Rayno Updated: September 23, 2012 - 4:58 PM

New Gophers recruit Alvin Ellis. Photo credit:

New Gophers recruit Alvin Ellis. Photo credit:


Better late than never. After seeing a handful of coveted recruits announce they’d make their collegiate homes elsewhere, Gophers basketball coach Tubby Smith got his first commitment for 2013-14 on Sunday.
Alvin Ellis, a three-star recruit according to and a shooting guard/small forward from Chicago, officially visited the University of Minnesota this weekend with two other recruits and tweeted around 1 pm on Sunday:
“Committed this morning to the University of Minnesota! #Gophers”
Ellis visited over the weekend with two other recruits: Alex Foster and Tory Miller. It was the second round of official visits for the Gophers, who watched Miami native Cedric Hankerson commit to Boston University the week following his early-September official at the U. At the same time, Kyle Washington, a four-star recruit from Champlin, had edited the Gophers out of his short list of schools he was interested in. He officially committed to NC State on Sunday after visiting over the weekend.
Before getting the commitment from Ellis, the Gophers were one of two Big Ten teams without a recruit for 2013-14. Michigan State is now the only conference team without a commitment. Minnesota could have as many as three spots available for 2013 after Trevor Mbakwe, Rodney Williams and Julian Welch graduate.
Ellis is a former teammate of Foster’s – the two were teammates at Chicago’s DeLaSalle last season, before Foster transferred to Seton this year.
Ellis is strong and athletic wing player who has exhibited stellar ball control and has the reputation for his intellect and versatility on the perimeter. The 6-4, 185-pound senior should be able to gain some weight heading into his college career.



Teague officially starts at U; says Smith contract 'in the 11th hour'

Posted by: Amelia Rayno Updated: June 18, 2012 - 12:02 PM



Gophers basketball coach Tubby Smith’s contract extension is in the “11th hour” said new athletic director Norwood Teague on Monday, his official starting date at the University of Minnesota.

Teague, who has said his initial order of business is to spend “about 100 days” listening to staff, donors and constituents and evaluating the needs of the program, said the majority of the extension is complete, but the two sides are hammering out the details.
“I think it’s going really well,” he said. “What happens with these negotiations is you get the bulk done and then these little things hold you up and then you worry that they’re larger things – and they’re not.”
The impression that the extension for Smith – who is heading into his sixth year of the original seven-year deal – is right around the corner has been one Minnesota has been maintaining for over a year, when retiring AD Joel Maturi was vocal about extending Smith. The pending contract is one of the few issues Teague will give a definitive plan of action for as of yet, saying he doesn’t want to rush into decisions before thoroughly evaluating everything.
“I can’t assume too much right now,” he said. “I think when you make decisions too early – big decisions – you make mistakes. We’re all impatient, we all want to get there yesterday, but really my two initiatives right away are to evaluate and to listen.” 

Tubby Smith on Trevor Mbakwe: "I think he wants to be here."

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated: April 5, 2012 - 4:28 PM

Gophers coach Tubby Smith on Thursday gave the strongest indication yet that Trevor Mbakwe, the Gophers senior who was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, will return next season.

“I think he wants to be here. That’s the conversation we had yesterday,” Smith said during his first local press conference since the Gophers season ended last week. “I think he’s gearing up to be back, going through rehab. Again, that could change. There are a lot of people he’s probably consulting with.”
The logistics of Mbakwe’s potential return, however, remain unclear. With two incoming freshmen – Wally Ellenson and Charles Buggs – the Gophers would be at their scholarship limit of 13 without accounting for Mbakwe. Smith said the team sent a letter to the NCAA on Thursday to essentially get an extra scholarship for Mbakwe for next season.
The team could hear back from the NCAA by next week. In the mean time, however, a spot could open up by what Smith terms “attrition.” He was planning to meet with players as a group later Thursday, followed soon by individual meetings. Smith said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if one or more players were considering transferring – which would open up a scholarship for Mbakwe and potentially for Arizona State’s Trent Lockett, a talented Hopkins graduate who is expected to transfer.
“You never know what will happen. I could have two or three [players] come to me and say, ‘I’m not happy. … I didn’t play enough minutes,’” Smith said. “They all think they deserve more. And when I tell them they deserve less, that’s where the crossroads is. When we come to the fork in the road – like Yogi Berra said – we’re going to take it.”
Smith also said he expects Rodney Williams to return for his senior season. He added that he remains "confident" his contract extension will get done soon, though he doesn't expect it to happen before a new athletic director is named. That announcement could come in about a month.

Associate coach Ron Jirsa removes name from consideration for head job at Northland College

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated: April 5, 2012 - 11:10 AM


Gophers associate men's basketball coach Ron Jirsa, who was scheduled to interview for the head job at Division III Northland College on Wednesday, has withdrawn his name for consideration for the postion, Northland AD Bill Wilson said Thursday morning.


Jirsa, part of a staff that has been together at Minnesota for all five years under Tubby Smith, was one of three candidates for the position. It was not immediately known why he withdrew from consideration.

Smith is slated to meet with members of the media at 2 p.m. this afternoon for a season-ending press conference.

Sampson 'tweaks' knee, status for Big Ten tourney opener in question

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated: March 7, 2012 - 4:14 PM


By Amelia Rayno


Ralph Sampson III "tweaked" his knee two days ago, Gophers coach Tubby Smith said on Wednesday, making his status questionable for Thursday's opening round game against Northwestern at the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis.

Sampson hurt the knee in practice, Smith said, and had not practiced since. The senior was seen shooting free throws on the court behind Smith as he spoke.
Backup Elliott Eliason would be the expected replacement If Sampson were unable to play against Northwestern. The redshirt freshman has started four games this season -- when Sampson dealt with an ankle injury during the nonconference schedule, and made a positve impact in those games. Eliason, who is averaging 2.5 points and 3.6 rebounds a game, has had some big games for the Gophers but has scored a total of just four points and three rebounds in the previous two games.
Sampson has struggled in the second half of the conference season, but had a strong outing in the Gophers' last regular season game against Nebraska, which was also senior day, finishing with 12 points and five rebounds.
Julian Welch has been back in practice and is expected to play Thursday, Smith said. He did not qualify whether the junior would start or come off the bench.


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