Change at the point; freshman Ahanmisi likely to start

  • Article by: MYRON P. MEDCALF , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 2, 2011 - 6:53 AM

Coach Tubby Smith will likely start freshman Maverick Ahanmisi at point guard Wednesday at Northwestern and move Blake Hoffarber back to shooting guard..

hide

Gophers freshman point guard Maverick Ahanmisi (front) is expected to get his third start of the season Wednesday against Northwestern, enabling Blake Hoffarber to return to shooting guard.

Photo: Brian Ray, ASSOCIATED PRESS

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

CHICAGO - The Gophers men's basketball team will try to salvage its season with a move many of the team's armchair coaches have been suggesting for weeks.

Coach Tubby Smith will likely start freshman Maverick Ahanmisi at point guard Wednesday at Northwestern and move Blake Hoffarber back to shooting guard, where he played before Al Nolen broke his foot in January.

Although Smith said he hadn't made a final decision on his rotation against the Wildcats, he and some of his players said they've prepared this week for Ahanmisi to open the contest at point guard.

"Well it moves Blake, moves everybody back to their natural positions. We'll see how that goes," Smith said Tuesday. "That may work. We'll see. We've tried it in practice. No, I haven't made a decision yet. ... We've used it. We've looked at him in practice, and he's done a good job, so we'll see if he can handle it [Wednesday]."

The Gophers (17-11, 6-10 Big Ten) have lost seven of their past eight games, and their goal of earning a third consecutive NCAA tournament bid will demand an improbable run in the Big Ten tournament.

But they just don't have much to lose by trying something new with so many things going wrong right now. Junior forward Trevor Mbakwe said Ahanmisi has replaced center Colton Iverson in the starting rotation this week.

"Coach has been juggling the offense around a lot," Mbakwe said. "It just brings another ballhandler in that kind of helps out our team with spacing and stuff like that. ... It's just something that Coach is trying to change up. After a losing streak, you have to find anything you can do to win games."

But if Smith goes with a new lineup, many will ask, "Why now?"

Smith faced criticism for initially switching Hoffarber to point guard. He's a shooter, not a ballhandler.

Through Nolen's last game with the team, a Jan. 22 victory at Michigan, Hoffarber had hit 42 percent of his three-point attempts in Big Ten play. He has connected on 38 percent on his tries from beyond the arc since taking on a new role.

He has committed 26 of his 37 turnovers in Big Ten play since becoming the team's fulltime point guard. As a shooting guard, he was one of America's top marksman, a strength Smith hopes to take advantage of by moving him back to the wing.

Ahanmisi said Smith has told him to get the ball to Hoffarber and Mbakwe, the team's top two scorers.

"Coach just said to handle the ball, really, and get shots for Blake and Trevor and stuff like that," said Ahanmisi, who has averaged 8.8 minutes per game this season and started twice.

The Gophers simply don't have many options at point guard. Devoe Joseph left midseason. The team's other potential floor leaders aside from Hoffarber are all freshmen.

They're so shorthanded that assistant coach Saul Smith, a former Kentucky point guard, and grad assistant Dan DeWitt, who played at Northern State, joined the scout team in Tuesday's practice.

Before Tubby Smith talked about possibly inserting Ahanmisi into his starting lineup against the Wildcats (16-12, 6-11), the coach said he didn't think he could do much to shake things up with two regular-season games left.

The coach expressed doubt about his program's NCAA tournament hopes following its 70-63 loss to Michigan on Saturday. After Tuesday's practice, however, he proclaimed "there's always hope" and "you don't give up." But he also seemed leery of a late-season makeover.

"It is what it is and we can't trade for anybody," he said. "As I said before, we've lost some close games. ... After watching the film of all the games, I'm like going 'Man, how did we lose that game?' I felt that about five games, but then you see how we lost, we [didn't] execute at the end of games. We [didn't] make shots at the end of games."

All of those are signs that change -- any change -- might be a good idea.

  • related content

  • Gophers-Northwestern game preview

    Tuesday March 1, 2011

    Preview: The last time the Gophers (17-11, 6-10 Big Ten) played Northwestern on Jan. 26, they were relieved to defeat another Big Ten opponent a few days after Al Nolen...

  • GOPHERS MEN'S BASKETBALL

    7:30 tonight at Northwestern • Welsh-Ryan Arena • TV: BTN (830-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Toronto 73 3rd Qtr 2:44
Indiana 57
Cleveland 47 3rd Qtr
Detroit 39
Milwaukee 54 3rd Qtr
Miami 50
Memphis 2 1st Qtr 9:44
Dallas 6
Chicago 9:30 PM
Golden State
Washington 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
NY Rangers 0 3rd Prd
NY Islanders 2
Arizona 3 3rd Prd
Philadelphia 3
Winnipeg 2 3rd Prd
Pittsburgh 2
Washington 2 3rd Prd
Columbus 3
Tampa Bay 1 2nd Prd 14:13
Carolina 2
Dallas 1 2nd Prd 14:59
Montreal 3
Detroit 2 2nd Prd 14:02
Florida 2
Colorado 1 1st Prd :03
Nashville 0
Buffalo 8:00 PM
Calgary
Minnesota 8:30 PM
Edmonton
Anaheim 9:00 PM
Vancouver
Ball State 44 2nd Half 4:05
Akron 54
Northern Ill 41 2nd Half 4:53
Bowling Green 49
Western Mich 57 2nd Half 3:47
Buffalo 66
Ohio 38 2nd Half 1:31
Eastern Mich 68
Xavier 48 2nd Half 7:55
Georgetown 35
Vanderbilt 50 2nd Half 3:44
Georgia 57
West Virginia 46 2nd Half 9:32
Kansas State 41
Central Mich 40 2nd Half 7:06
Kent State 47
Saint Josephs 46 2nd Half 3:05
La Salle 45
Nebraska 41 2nd Half 2:07
Michigan 56
Miami-Ohio 57 2nd Half 2:21
Toledo 65
Tulsa 55 2nd Half 3:08
Tulane 42
George Washington 35 2nd Half 7:31
VA Commonwealth 53
Pittsburgh 53 2nd Half 5:15
Virginia Tech 49
Indiana State 26 1st Half 6:30
Evansville 28
Tabor College 17 1st Half 3:42
Oral Roberts 34
Florida 8:00 PM
Alabama
Tennessee 8:00 PM
Arkansas
Texas A&M 8:00 PM
Auburn
Baylor 8:00 PM
Oklahoma State
DePaul 0 Postponed
Providence 0
Michigan State 0 Postponed
Rutgers 0
Wyoming 8:00 PM
Utah State
Fresno State 8:05 PM
San Diego St
UNLV 9:00 PM
Nevada
SD Christian 9:00 PM
CS-Bakersfield
Colorado State 10:00 PM
Boise State
Columbia International 33 FINAL
Charleston Southern 74
Temple 66 2nd Half 4:22
UCF 45
Campbell 40 2nd Half 5:08
Presbyterian 44
Coastal Carolina 54 2nd Half 3:44
High Point 69
Gardner-Webb 41 2nd Half 5:21
Radford 50
UNC-Asheville 53 2nd Half 2:47
Liberty 56
Winthrop 57 2nd Half 1:55
Longwood 55
Tulane 24 1st Half 2:46
Houston 18
(3) Baylor 46 1st Half 0:05
TCU 34
Navy 19 1st Half 2:23
American Univ 27
Valparaiso 13 1st Half 0:59
Illinois-Chicago 22
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Do you favor the plan for expanded athletic facilities at the U of M?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close