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.


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 •

  • 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


San Francisco - WP: M. Bumgarner 7 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Shields 1
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Houston 85 FINAL
Miami 90
Indiana 89 FINAL
Minnesota 107
Utah 105 FINAL
Oklahoma City 91
Portland 93 FINAL
Denver 75
Phoenix 114 FINAL
LA Lakers 108
LA Clippers 107 FINAL
Golden State 125
San Jose 3 FINAL
Boston 5
NY Rangers 4 FINAL(OT)
New Jersey 3
Toronto 5 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Detroit 1 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 2
Arizona 3 FINAL(SO)
Nashville 4
Carolina 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 3
Philadelphia 0 FINAL
Chicago 4
Vancouver 3 FINAL
Dallas 6
Florida 4 FINAL(OT)
Colorado 3
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL(OT)
Calgary 1
Arkansas State 40 FINAL
Louisiana 55
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters


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 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
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




question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question