Senior Ralph Sampson III said he considered the NBA in the offseason but the educational opportunity at the University of Minnesota convinced him to stay. Sampson, who entered the NBA draft but pulled out before the withdrawal deadline in May, said he decided he was better off securing his degree and delaying the start of his pro career.
"I've always been taught to finish what I started. And I know there's a life after basketball," he said. "So I know that getting a degree from the University of Minnesota would be a great asset for me after the basketball season, regardless of if I went pro or not."
Had Sampson chosen the NBA route, he would've found himself in limbo like the rest of the NBA draft picks still waiting for an opportunity to play because of the lockout.
"If the lockout didn't happen, I'd definitely take that into account," he said. "I'm pretty content with my decision."
Mbakwe learns plenty in offseason
Earlier this week, senior Trevor Mbakwe watched a DVD that featured all of his turnovers and missed shots from last season. He said the frustrating footage will help him grow and improve this season.
Although he averaged 13.9 points per game and 10.5 rebounds per game, his 63 percent mark on free throws diminished his impact.
"I know if I shoot at least 70 percent from the free-throw line, I know that's two or three points more to my average already," he said. "I definitely got to get better off the free-throw line. I'm leaving a lot of points there, especially. It can cost us some games."
Mbakwe said he also learned a lot by playing with Connecticut's Alex Oriakhi and Michigan State's Draymond Green on the World University Games national team this summer.
• Freshman Joe Coleman, whose uncle Ben Coleman and brother Dan Coleman both played for the Gophers, said he's ready to continue the family legacy but he also wants to write his own chapter. "It's been fun watching my brother growing up," said Coleman, the former Hopkins star. "And then now to finally have the opportunity to play here, it's really fun."
• "Gopher All-Star Friday Night," Minnesota's version of Midnight Madness, will begin at 7 p.m. Friday at Williams Arena. The event will feature an autograph session, a dunk contest, a three-point-shooting contest and a team scrimmage.