While Andre Hollins appears to be many fans’ favorite choice, coach Tubby Smith has made it clear that for now, the point guard job is still a three-man race.
This Gophers team -- after watching one point guard go down with injury, another leave via transfer, and a shooting guard with little experience at the point struggle to fill in the gap – knows just how critical finding the right man is.
“It’s very important,” Ralph Sampson III said. “Last year … we kind of had to throw people in different positions to get the spot filled. This year we have a lot of new guys that I feel can definitely step up to the level and contend in the Big Ten, but I feel it’s going to take kind of all of us mentoring them to help bring them along in order to get them ready.”
Let’s take a look at the candidates:
The Kid: Freshman Hollins will brush off perceptions that he isn’t a true point guard. But regardless of his rawness – both at the position and in college basketball in general – Smith seems to believe he has the tools to get the job done. Hollins, who graduated high school as Tennesee’s Mr. Basketball while boasting a 4.8 GPA, possesses the intelligence necessary to run an offense and should be a scorer at the position as well. He averaged 23.5 points as a senior on a competitive team.
The JUCO: On Media Day, Smith touted junior college transfer Julian Welch’s toughness and basketball understanding. “He’s got a lot of games under his belt, having played at UC-Davis and then having played at junior college. …He’s a scoring guard that can be a point guard for us,” he said. But while Welch was Big West freshman of the year at UC-Davis and averaged 19 points and five assists last year at Yuba Community College (Calif.), whether and how that will translate to Big Ten production is yet to be determined.
The Outside Shot: Smith said he’s seen Maverick Ahanmisi improve substantially from last season and the coach also stated “the returning players obviously have the upper hand.” To boot, the sophomore is the only true point on the roster. The backup got plenty of minutes toward the end of the season last year, and Tubby pointed out that his shooting percentage was one of the few on the team that actually improved in league play. He started five games near the end of the year and in March, Ahanmisi played a career-high 32 minutes and tied a career-high seven points at Northwestern, and against them in the Big Ten Tournament recorded a career-high six assists.
As of last week, Smith wasn’t willing to name any player as a sure bet. “It’ll be a lot of competition,” he said.
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