The conversation only lasted five minutes when Gophers coach Richard Pitino spoke to Dupree McBrayer about a new role coming off the bench.
McBrayer could have showed frustration over losing his starting job to senior Akeem Springs. But the 6-foot-5 sophomore guard accepted his coach's decision and was ready to move on.
"I always thought about doing it, but I didn’t want to mess with it when we were winning,” Pitino said of the switch. “It provides a little bit more versatility and depth coming off the bench. Dupree doesn’t care. I had a (quick) conversation about it. He said, ‘Don’t worry about me, I just want to win.’”
Pitino made it clear McBrayer going to the bench after starting the first 19 games was no demotion. He’s been playing as consistently as any guard on the team, averaging 11.8 points this season.
McBrayer thrived off the bench with 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting in Saturday’s 78-76 overtime loss to Wisconsin. He also had four assists and one turnover in 21 minutes as a backup for Nate Mason at point guard and Amir Coffey at shooting guard.
“I kind of like it, honestly, a spark off the bench,” McBrayer said. “Akeem is one of the leaders of the team. He’s a vet. He deserved it. He worked for it. Nothing’s wrong with that role.”
On Saturday, McBrayer watched the start of the Wisconsin game and saw areas where his team needed help.
“When I came in the game I just tried to do some of those little things to help out,” he said.
McBrayer knows what it's like to struggle shooting the ball. He shot 25.3 percent from three-point range his freshman season. But the New York native is the team's most improved player this season, shooting 39 percent from beyond the arc.
His former starting backcourt mate Nate Mason has been suffering through a shooting slump in the Big Ten (16-for-52 shooting in the last five games), but McBrayer's not worried about Mason’s confidence.
“He’s a tough kid,” McBrayer said. “He’s going to get it. He’s in the gym working all the time. I’m with him. Akeem’s with him. (Ahmad Gilbert) is with him. So he’s going to get out of that slump. He’s going to have a breakout game soon. Then he’ll be back on track after that.”
SPRINGS' SHOT: Springs isn't a stranger to a starting role.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound graduate transfer started 54 of 60 games he played in two seasons with Milwaukee-Wisconsin from 2014-16. He averaged 13.2 points and 5.3 rebounds as a junior, starting all 32 games for the Panthers last season.
Springs brought experience to the starting lineup, but he's also shooting 39 percent from three-point range. He scored 16 points against Wisconsin on Saturday, including the game-tying three-pointer to send it into overtime.
"I've always been confident in my shot," Springs said. "I work hard on it. I want be able to have confidence and make shots if coach calls on me."
Springs has a light load with grad school courses, so he tries to work on his jump shot several times a week in the morning and after practice.