Scoggins: Sampson III finishing an underwhelming four years

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 1, 2012 - 6:40 AM

Ralph Sampson III's time with the Gophers is emblematic of Tubby Smith's tenure. It began with high hopes, but one expected so much more by now.

hide

Minnesota's Ralph Sampson III

Photo: Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

It was a simple yes or no question: Are you satisfied with your career? Ralph Sampson III paused for 5 seconds.

"Mixed emotions about that one," he said. "You always wish you could have done more, wanted to do more, wish everything was higher, wish everything was through the roof. But you're pleased about what you've done and what you've accomplished over the years."

Which is what, exactly? It wasn't a success, and it wasn't a blanket failure. It was just underwhelming.

That's the book on Sampson, the Gophers 6-11 senior center, and barring a dramatic finish to this season, it will become his legacy, too.

Sampson scored his 1,000th career point Tuesday in a loss at Wisconsin. He is only the fifth player in program history to reach 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 150 blocks. He joined Kevin McHale, Randy Breuer, Mychal Thompson and Michael Bauer in that group.

Yet despite starting 113 games, Sampson's overall impact on the program has been minimal, to the point that he gradually was becoming mostly a bystander until his re-emergence against Michigan State last week.

The gushing over Sampson's general competence and willingness to compete in a critical game that night underscored just how far the bar has been lowered. Shouldn't that kind of effort and emotional engagement from the team's lone healthy senior serve as a standard expectation?

If anything, Sampson's performance against the sixth-ranked Spartans should elevate fan frustration because it again demonstrated the impact he can make when he is completely engaged. He was assertive and forceful in the post. He played with an edge, showed some confidence, didn't shy away from contact.

It was a solid effort that left you wondering, where has this been? Sampson responded with four points on 1-for-11 shooting and three rebounds in a loss to Indiana on Sunday. He responded to that letdown by collecting eight points, seven rebounds and five blocks against Wisconsin.

That's his college career in a nutshell.

"I just want people to remember me by the way I conducted myself, the way I carried myself, what kind of character I [have]," Sampson said when asked about his legacy. "I want people to remember me by not necessarily what I've done and what I've brought but what I've created while I was here."

Sampson's career is emblematic of Tubby Smith's tenure in Dinkytown. It began with high hopes, but one expected so much more by now. You don't see any real emotion or energy in the player or program most of the time. You keep waiting for that spark that leads to sustained success, but it never comes.

Asked if he's enjoyed his four years in a Gophers uniform, Sampson said, "It's been a roller coaster ride. But at the end of the day I look back and say, yes I enjoyed my four years here."

Sampson's inconsistency and disappearances covered up the flashes of promise that suggested he was on the verge of becoming the player everyone envisioned when he arrived on campus with a famous name and pedigree. No one realistically expected him to achieve the same level of success as his father, Ralph Sampson Jr., one of the all-time greats in college basketball. But Sampson's talent has never really been the main issue.

His insistence on hanging around the perimeter is frustrating because he has good size and length and can use either hand to score. He has a nice shooting touch from the outside as well, but this Gophers team craved a low-post presence in the absence of injured forward Trevor Mbakwe.

Sampson has enough talent to be a difference-maker on a team with very few of them when he wants, but that's the crux of any discussion involving him. He enrages fans with his unemotional demeanor and body language that suggests only a half-hearted interest.

That might be unfair or even inaccurate, but we often equate how much an athlete cares by how he carries himself. Sampson rarely projects anything but a solemn expression and air of indifference.

Sampson said he routinely hears questions and complaints about his demeanor, which presumably fueled this tweet from him earlier this season: "Last time I checked, being emotional on the court doesn't mean you are a better player."

That's true, of course. But there's a difference between being emotional and showing some competitive fight. We saw the latter from Sampson against Michigan State last week and flashes of it again against Wisconsin.

Too bad he's not like that all the time.

Chip Scoggins • ascoggins@startribune.com

  • GOPHERS VS. NEBRASKA Up next: 11:30 a.m. Saturday • Williams Arena • TV: Big Ten Network (1500-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Oakland - LP: D. Otero 8 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: J. Frasor 9
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
NY Islanders 5 FINAL
Boston 3
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Philadelphia 4
Ottawa 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Carolina 1 FINAL
St. Louis 3
Tampa Bay 5 FINAL
Dallas 1
Colorado 0 FINAL
Calgary 2
Los Angeles 4 FINAL
San Jose 1
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pm30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 am
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Gophers do against Michigan?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close