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

Former Minnesota point guard Al Nolen -- occasionally working out with the team -- sees a little of himself in DeAndre Mathieu

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers coaches, Gophers players Updated: July 1, 2014 - 10:34 AM


Former Minnesota point guard Al Nolen was pleased when, early in the Gophers non-conference schedule last year, he watched from the Williams Arena stands as tiny DeAndre Mathieu drove to the paint and peppered the basket with shots.

Nolen, a Minneapolis native and lifelong Gophers fan, was taken aback when he saw the gutty performances and a quick knack for leadership spring from the undersized guard as the season continued. 

And even he'll admit it, Nolen was pretty darn surprised when he saw Mathieu maintain that tenacity, heart and occasional dominance throughout the challenging Big Ten slate.

But Nolen -- who is now the Dean of Students for Anthony Middle School in South Minneapolis -- didn't really get to know just who Mathieu is until this summer, when he had the opportunity to spend some time around the fellow floor general.

These days, Nolen comes around campus occasionally, and works out with the Gophers in their open gyms. There, he's watched a dedicated young player work to systematically improve a game that, a year ago, already impressed just about everyone who watched.

"I've got really high, high praise for DeAndre Mathieu," Nolen said in a phone interview on Monday. "I think he's an excellent player, and person. I've talked to him a little bit and he's really a good guy, he's really a hard worker. Watching him out there, he's a great leader on the floor, a lot of teammates look up to him. He's great with ball handling. He can get down there with the  bigger players and score down low. I think he's really going to be key for Minnesota next year."

Nolen said he loved watching Mathieu -- the first true point guard Minnesota has had since he expired his eligibility in 2011 -- become the steady presence the Gophers were craving, especially with Andre Hollins enduring late-season injury woes and Austin Hollins largely inconsistent throughout the Big Ten schedule. 

It was evident how the team gelled behind their new pacesetter, and how close Mathieu and new coach Richard Pitino became in the process. Nolen's critical eye noticed, too, how it was often Mathieu who represented the team to the media; the player who both bestowed the praise and took the fall.

"As an extension of the coach, you have to be a leader," Nolen said. "And that's exactly what DeAndre is. I'm pretty sure him and coach Pitino have the best relationship on the team because coach Pitino has to rely on him on the floor to basically get the guys to do what [he] wants.

"I think it's very important to come in and ... take the bull by the horn and be that leader, take responsibility, when it's good and when it's bad, be able to take criticism and handle yourself professionally. He's done a great job with that."

Now, Nolen sees a guard working hungrily to take the next steps. Mathieu -- who made his reputation by fearlessly driving into the paint and taking on guys who towered, head a shoulders, over him -- has already added in excess of ten pounds to his compact 5-foot-9 frame, according to strength and conditioning coach Shaun Brown. 

"He's definitely packing a lot of muscle," Nolen said of the guard that averaged 12 points and 4.2 assists in his first Big Ten season after transferring from Central Arizona College. "When I've seen him this summer, he looked a lot stronger, quicker, his jump shot looked great. He looked like he's really been focused and really been working hard."

And when Mathieu leaves the weight room, he goes straight to the court, where he's putting up shot after shot on his own. A year ago, Mathieu shot 51.1 percent from the field, and 48.9 percent from three-point range, but often seemed much more comfortable steamrolling to the rim in traffic than stepping back to take a shot from the perimeter.

"After seeing him play, I know a lot of people thought he needed to improve on his shooting and I'll say this summer, he's definitely improved on that," Nolen said. "He's definitely improved his shot. I think he's just been in the gym a lot more. With shooting, it's confidence he's getting in the gym and getting that confidence to knock down that shot."

The workload, along with the Knoxville native's gritty style of play and seemingly limitless passion, is enough to earn Mathieu a new nickname, at least when Nolen is around.

"I like to call him Mighty Mouse," the alum said. "He's the littlest guy on the floor, but then he'll surprise you, going down there with the big guys, coming in real physical."

Nolen would be lying, too, if he didn't say the rising senior reminds him a little of himself: a tough point guard who doesn't shy away from contact, and who seems to salivate at mismatches and folks who don't believe he's good enough. 

But because he respects Mathieu's intellect and work ethic so much, Nolen said the only words close to advice he's doled out to the younger guard are simply reminders to keep being his hard-nosed self.

Next year, Nolen knows, with the Big Ten having been put on notice last season, th goal will only become more challenging. Everyone's anticipation will grow, including Nolen's.

"He definitely was a piece that they needed and he's really exceeded my expectations," Nolen said. "So I have higher ones for him now, this next year, knowing how good he is."

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles - LP: B. Wilson 7 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Grimm 8
Detroit - WP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Shields 2
Philadelphia - WP: J. Williams 3 FINAL
Oakland - LP: D. Otero 0
Toronto - WP: M. Stroman 6 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: C. Capuano 3
Arizona - LP: T. Cahill 1 FINAL
Colorado - WP: E. Butler 5
Boston - LP: R. De La Rosa 2 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: C. Tillman 7
Milwaukee - WP: Z. Duke 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: M. Melancon 0
Washington - WP: J. Zimmermann 3 FINAL
Miami - LP: J. Cosart 2
NY Mets - WP: J. Niese 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: M. Minor 2
Chicago WSox - LP: H. Noesi 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: C. Archer 3
Cleveland - WP: T. House 7 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: T. May 3
Seattle - LP: C. Young 1 FINAL
Houston - WP: D. Keuchel 10
Cincinnati - LP: M. Leake 4 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: J. Motte 8
San Francisco - LP: Y. Petit 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: A. Cashner 3
Texas - LP: C. Lewis 5 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: J. Weaver 8
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(13) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(11) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(21) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
(18) Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
Miss State 34 FINAL
(8) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(14) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
UNLV 14 FINAL
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(24) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
(22) Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 31 4th Qtr
Arizona 13
San Diego St 7 3rd Qtr 6:52
Oregon State 21
(2) Oregon 21 3rd Qtr 9:54
Washington St 21
Louisiana 3 3rd Qtr 10:58
Boise State 24
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
Miami-Florida
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(20) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(23) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
(18) Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(8) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(9) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(17) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Vancouver FC 0 FINAL
Portland 3
Houston 0 FINAL
Philadelphia 0
New England 0 FINAL
Columbus 1
San Jose 0 FINAL
Montreal 2
Seattle 1 FINAL
Red Bull New York 4
D.C. 3 FINAL
Chicago 3
FC Dallas 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
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.
Sep 27 - at Michigan TBA
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern TBA
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 Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT