This is Amelia Rayno's third season on the Gophers men's basketball beat. She learned college basketball in North Carolina (Go Tar Heels!), where fanhood is not an option. In 2010, she joined the Star Tribune after graduating from Boston's Emerson College, which sadly had no exciting D-I college hoops to latch onto. Amelia has also worked on the sports desk at the Boston Globe and interned at the Detroit News.

  Follow Rayno on Twitter @AmeliaRayno

aMAILiaBAG: Will the Gophers get ANY 2014 recruits? Ranking the targets, talking next season and dissecting new bigfoot encounters

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers coaches, Gophers players Updated: September 13, 2013 - 12:23 PM

aMAILiaBAG is a regular installment on this blog. If you have a question, send it to amelia.rayno@startribune.com or reply to me on Twitter @AmeliaRayno with the hashtag #aMAILiaBAG. Your questions in bold, below; my responses in regular type.

Is it just me or is it a little concerning #gophers haven't gotten one recruit they have targeted?

@zmotalk

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Are the Gophs going to get any of these recruits? 

-Impatient fan

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[Dang] the recruiting is not going as well as I had hoped...we seem to be losing a lot of them??

@bonehead267

Seriously, bonehead, no cursing here. Don’t be a bonehead.

Anyway, you all bring up my most favorite question from readers. OK, that last sentence was heavily laced with sarcasm, but in any case, that question certainly is the most common one that I’m getting these days. I got many of these, so I’m just going to answer you all together. OK? OK.

A couple months ago, new coach Richard Pitino was undyingly popular with the fan base, simply because he was going after a TON of elite recruits and seemed to be garnering some interest in return – with a good handful even placing Minnesota on their short lists. No coaching staff will ever be satisfied with moral victories, sure – but many of you guys seem to have forgotten that the current situation, even without a single commitment for 2014, already denotes program improvement.

You didn’t expect this to be easy, did you? While Pitino obviously has a strong blood line and background and has brought early excitement to Minnesota, he still has a lot to prove at this level. Minnesota, while bearing a new, incredibly ambitious facilities plan for the future, is still lacking in that regard. Recent history and overall history of success are not on the Gophers side, in comparison with some other schools. Expecting four-star recruits to immediately flock to the Twin Cities following the coaching change is simply unrealistic. At the same time, while some of the guys that have slipped through Minnesota’s fingers recently have surprised me (namely, JP Macura and Ja’Quan Newton), they Gophers are far from being desperate. In fact, just the fact that many have been surprised by some of these recruits not picking Minnesota speaks to the Gophers’ impressive job on the trail so far.

Do the #Gophers have a legit chance at @Reid_Travis_22

@Mattyberg49

I do still think that the Gophers have a chance at Travis, although Duke recently offering the DeLaSalle power forward doesn’t help things any. Travis officially listed a top seven recently, and included Minnesota – so don’t count them out. But I’d say watching whether Travis decides to use one of his official visits on the ‘U’ will be telling.

Glad to have you back Amelia. Can you do another recruiting power rankings like before with current updates? #aMAILiabag

@ALuvsTwins

Why do you guys always make me do this? Do you just enjoy laughing at me when I’m wrong? But you asked nicely so Here. We. Go. (Because I’ve had such success with this so far – for those of you who forgot, I will humbly remind you that I had JP Macura at the top of the list last time …). Remember, these are in order of likelihood of happening.

1. Lourawls ‘Tum Tum’ Nairn – Might Tum Tum be the point guard of the future for the Gophers? He’s down to three and Minnesota is one of them. Unfortunately, Big Ten giant Indiana is in that group as well …
2. Josh Martin – The power forward seems to genuinely like Pitino and has his official visit planned.
3. Isaiah Whitehead – He’s making his way to campus, anyway, next week, which I would say is a very positive sign. Do the Gophers have a chance? The crystal ball says yes. A five-star at Minnesota? That would stop your whining pretty quickly, wouldn’t it?
4. Paul White – The main competition will be Georgetown (where the Chicago wing is on an official visit this weekend), but I think the bright White is intrigued by Minnesota.
5. Josh Cunningham – It’s a little bit hard to get a feel for what Cunningham is thinking, but an official is likely.
6. Abdoulaye Gueye – the Gophers have made their case. But is the Africa native, Birmingham resident really going to come to snowy Minnesota?
7. Reid Travis – I think this Duke offer to the DeLaSalle power forward could be quite problematic for the Gophers and every other school in the mix.
8. Josh Gray – It’s hard to tell anything yet with the junior college point guard, but it’s someone to keep an eye on pending Tum Tum’s decision.
9. Marial Shayok – It’s still wide open with the wing, but it seems like the Gophers are pretty interested.
10. Rashad Vaughn – I don’t think this is happening folks. The eagle has left the nest. I repeat, the eagle has left the nest.

You'll notice Tyus Jones is not listed.

With Pitino praising Mav, and Dre Mathieu coming in, do you see Andre playing more 2 this year with Austin at 3? #aMAILiaBAG

@mattprivratsky

Yes, I wouldn’t be surprised if Pitino does have Dre Hollins playing more at the shooting guard spot, since we’ve all witnessed that the 2 seems to be the more natural and beneficial role for him. The key will be if Pitino thinks that either Ahanmisi or Mathieu are ready to take the role over. If he is tentative about that, you might see Hollins start the year at floor general until Pitino can get a chance to test the other floor general options a little more. And I like Austin at the 3-spot. I think his athleticism will serve well in that role.

Any reason why transfer with instant playing time was denied [for Rakeem Buckles]? Why didn't he qualify like other transfer?

@sirjames54

Well unfortunately, I can’t completely get inside the NCAA’s head (Or do I really want to be there? It seems like it could be a scary place), but the word is that grades were of significant concern. Beyond that, there might have been more than meets the eye. As anyone in the know will tell you, no two waivers are the same, even if the reasoning seems like it on the surface (such as the case with Buckles and Malik Smith, who successfully received his waiver to play immediately after transferring from Florida International). It’s a big blow for Minnesota.

With Rakeem Buckles’ waiver to play immediately being denied by the NCAA, the eligibility of Joey King for this year becomes very important.  Any updates on this? 

Jim

That’s a good point, Jim, and oddly, news has been awfully slow on this matter. Obviously Smith got his waiver months ago, so I’m not sure what the hold up is. The University is no longer saying anything on the matter, so I don’t know if the waiver has even been submitted yet on his behalf (as of early August, it wasn’t yet) or if the Gophers are simply waiting on the NCAA. It does seem a bit concerning, however, that it has taken this long. This might be one of the more underrated storylines out there as the Gophers’ frontcourt is already incredibly thin – not having King available would really hurt the Gophers.

What realistic expectations can see with Buggs? I think he could be a real X factor this season. #aMAILiaBAG

@NOELTHOMPSON

It's hard to say since we haven't seen him in live game situations, other than a pair of exhibition games against substandard competition at the beginning of last season. I like what he's done in the offseason, packing some much-needed pounds on his thin frame, which will certainly be critical if he ends up having to step in as power forward (especially if King is not available to play right away). And Pitino has said that he thinks with his frame and tools, he has perhaps the greatest upside of anyone on the team. But he also has a long ways to go. While at times Buggs impresses, Pitino has also said he goes through what-are-you-doing moments as well. If Buggs can take the next step and put the package together, it would be a big lift for the Gophers, who are going to need some major surprises in the frontcourt this season if they want to be competitive in the Big Ten.

BONUS BIGFOOT QUESTION:

A new #Bigfoot sighting? I feel so out of the loop. Yes, please address that.

@lisavanderwerf

Bigfoot is never out of the news. Recently, the creatures have been making headlines in Canada and Lincoln, Neb. (This one does not surprise me. Perhaps some of you will remember that I already found Bigfoot there, last fall). As for the first, which occurred in July, here is the video. Yes, it fits the typical bigfoot media checklist: Is it incredibly far away, without context or blurry? (Yes.) Is the camera shaking just right? (Yes.) Does it kind of look like maybe it could possibly be bigfoot? (Yes.)

Is it bigfoot? I don’t know – it’s way too far away to make any kind of judgment. One thing I regret about this video is that it does not have any sound. I always appreciate hearing the ‘OH S%$$%^**!!!’ comments – let’s be honest, that’s what I would be doing – and judging the authenticity of the pitch of the terrified accompanying squeaks of terror.

As for the second, in Lincoln, there’s not much to hold up to examine, but those cases always intrigue me, if anything, a little bit more. If you were going to hoax about seeing bigfoot – wouldn’t you at least fake an iPhone snapshot? So there is – the best proof for bigfoot: no proof. I have definitely been thinking about this too long.

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