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: Scholarship issues, surprises, the Big Three and the Bigfoot Museum

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers players, Recruiting, Richard Pitino Updated: November 1, 2013 - 10:57 AM

Greetings from Chicago, where Big Ten media day was held on Thursday. You can read my notebook from the event here, as well as my story about new coach Richard Pitino entering the Big Ten, with thoughts from other coaches in the conference. And, of course, my rankings with comments from the paper.

Thanks for all your questions. To submit a question for a future aMAILiaBAG, you can email me at or respond to me on Twitter @AmeliaRayno using the hashtag #aMAILiaBAG.

Questions below in bold; my answers in plain type.

Hi Amelia,
With all the incoming transfers for 2013 and the three 2014 recruits, I've lost track of where the Gophers are at with scholarships, both for 2014 and the out years.  How many scholarships do we have left for 2014?  How balanced are the class sizes beyond that?  (e.g. is there a year that we only project 1-2 scholarships available because we have a small graduating class.)  Thanks!
Springfield, VA

I got some version of this question about 25 times, Eric. Here’s the deal: the Gophers have four scholarships total available for 2014. Two from Austin Hollins and Maverick Ahanmisi, who are each in their final year of eligibility. One from Malik Smith, who is new to the Gophers but will also be out of eligibility after this year. One left unused from this class (it would have been used for Rakeem Buckles had the NCAA approved his waiver). So far the Gophers have used three, so there is one remaining for the 2014 class.

Beyond that, the 2015 class would have five (Oto Osenieks, Andre Hollins, Deandre Mathieu, Elliott Eliason, Mo Walker) the 2016 class, two (Wally Ellenson, Joey King) and the 2017 class, two (Daquein McNeil, Charles Buggs).

Of course, those numbers could change if anyone decided to transfer, if anyone was redshirted, if anyone was hurt and received a medical redshirt, if the Gophers signed another JUCO or transfer, or if anyone left early for the NBA draft.

Does a JUCO signing account towards a different class? 


Scholarships are available as people leave, essentially. So Mathieu will only take up a scholarship for two years. Teams get 13 in any given year, so of course if any player is on scholarship it counts toward that season.

Do the Gophers shut down all recruiting hopes outside of the Big 3 with only 1 scholarship remaining? Or do we just take the next commit and move on?


No, that would not be smart at all. And the options you laid out aren’t the only two choices. Remember in the spring of 2012, when Trevor Mbakwe was approved for a sixth year of eligibility? The Gophers technically did not have space for him. They had anticipated on Mbakwe leaving along with center Ralph Sampson III and recruited as such, bringing in Ellenson and Charles Buggs for the following year. What ended up happening? Chip Armelin transferred. Voila, space created.

Rest assured that if any of the Big Three decided to come to Minnesota, the Gophers would find the room for them. Situations like that are not ideal, by any means, but they do happen.

At the same time, given the unlikeliness of getting any of those players, it makes no sense to halt recruiting efforts and cross fingers. The Gophers are working on getting the best players they can get right now. If the situation changes, they will adjust.

Hi Amelia.Thinking about this season, who in your opinion has the most potential to surprise us with great production or a breakout season?  Who has the potential to disappoint us (maybe due to too-high expectations, a la Rodney Williams?)

Thinking to the future, wow, good week with Nate and Squirrel signing on.  Based on what you know about the big 3, does a Nate + Squirrel situation improve Minnesota's chances or not?

Finally, I'm here in Northern California... where should I go to get a Bigfoot fix?


Love that I’m answering questions from Virginia and from Northern Cali today. Gopher Nation?

As for players with the capability to surprise, I’m going to name Deandre Mathieu and Mo Walker.

Mathieu has already surprised me – in the team scrimmage a few weeks ago – and he seems built for this system. He has the chance to start as well. Walker, on the other hand, has been around since 2010, but has never been much of an impact player. Even after he lost all the weight, I remained skeptical that he would be able to run constantly in Pitino’s new system. But the big man seems dedicated, and Pitino said the other day he hopes Walker could go 40 minutes if he needed him to. He pointed out that even when he’s tired, he’s giving more effort, finishing better than before. He still needs to continue to improve, but I wouldn’t pencil in Elliott Eliason as the sole starting center just yet.

The flip side I will let others speculate. Pointing out a player on the team that I think is going to flop the most is not a good move for me. I will say that all of them appear to be working hard.

Now, for bigfoot spots? There is of course Bluff Creek, the spot where the Patterson-Gimlin film was recorded in the 1960’s. I would really love to go there some day.

Here is a list the BFRO has compiled of other sightings in California, some locations with quite a few. And finally, have you been to the Bigfoot Museum in Willow Creek? Would be a must-do. Plenty of Bigfooting to do around there as well.

If Reid commits, how do you see that impacted the recruitment of 2015 PFs Ellenson, Illikainen and Thomas? Since the Gophs would then have 2 PFs committed from 2014. Any shift in focus to other positions for 2015?


Just to remind those that aren’t aware, Reid Travis (one of the local ‘Big Three of Travis, Tyus Jones and Rashad Vaughn) is planning to make his official decision on Nov. 8. Gonzaga, however, is no longer on the table, so the teams Travis is choosing from are Stanford, Duke and the Gophers.

If he were to commit to the Gophers, which is still considered a long shot, it wouldn’t affect much about how the Gophers went after the other guys. The second power forward commit is Josh Martin, but he could easily play small forward. They could use at least one of the other guys, especially if there aren’t any centers they like better out there. If the Gophers did get one commit from one of those 2015 guys with Travis already in pocket, they could reassess the situation, but the chances of them getting all three of those guys are unlikely.


Out of our 3 recruits (Martin, Morris, Mason), who should we be most excited about landing? How do those 3 compare talent-wise to UM recruits of the past couple years (Buggs, Ellenson, etc)? Thanks!


I’m interested to see what all of them will do, but maybe especially Squirrel, or Carlos Morris. His length and athleticism seem to fit in perfectly with what the Gophers are trying to do, and the experience at JUCO under his belt only helps. Hard to judge Buggs or Ellenson yet because we haven’t seen much of either of them, but I like both of their upsides.

Do the Gophers really have the depth and talent to play "40 Minutes of Hell" style like Louisville? #Gophers #aMAILiaBAG


The quick answer? No. At least not yet. The Gophers are guard-heavy but turnover-laden, and the frontcourt is very thin. What does that mean? That their ballhandling must improve and everyone, particularly in the frontcourt, must be REALLY REALLY WELL CONDITIONED. It seems as though they are putting in the work.

#aMAILiaBAG with Morris commit that makes 3 for 2014. With Raheem not getting scholy does that mean team can have 5 now not 4?


No, the Gophers would have had four scholarships for next year with or without Buckles. If he had come, he would have only had one year of eligibility left, thus freeing up his scholarship in 2014. As it is, they just saved it.

Does Amir Coffey like the gophers?


Yes, I think he does. The Gophers showed him a lot of respect off the bat by making him the first 2016 recruit that they offered. He’s a big Gopher fan – his dad, Richard Coffey played at Minnesota -- and he’s been around campus plenty, including for the recent scrimmage. There is still so much time for things to change with his recruitment, though.

#aMAILiaBAG Who are the main targets for 2015? #GopherBasketball


Right now, the big focuses are Alex Illikainen (Grand Rapids PF), Eli Thomas (Texas PF), Jarvis Johnson (Minneapolis guard), Henry Ellenson (Wisconsin PF). There are others on the list, but those are some of the highlights.

Question for the #aMAILiaBAG - Why did "Squirrel" go to JuCO when he was a Rivals top 150 recruit in 12'? #Gophers #Bigfoot


I actually addressed this in my blog from Wednesday – Carlos Morris went to JUCO mainly to deal with his grades, but he likes the improvement he saw in his game as well.

Just read that the Gophers got yet ANOTHER guard! Is Pitino the CBB version of David Kahn or what?


Well, it’s a system built around guards, not that surprising. Rest assured that the Gophers will be going after plenty of big men in 2015 (see above).

How does the Morris commitment affect the Rashad sweepstakes?


Doesn’t. The Gophers would gladly take both. In Pitino’s system, depth is a necessity.


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