July is here and Minnesota summer basketball is well under way.
Four of the six newcomers who will be joining the Gophers in the upcoming season are on campus and beginning the integration -- guards Zach Lofton and Carlos Morris arrived in mid May, and combo guard Nate Mason and forward Josh Martin followed over Father's Day weekend.
Already, the preparation for next year has begun. The NCAA mandates that teams are allowed eight weeks of practices -- for two hours a week -- during the summer months, and programs can decide how they want to lay out their schedule within those constraints.
The Gophers began practicing the week of June 16th -- so they are midway through their third week back now.
"Last year was more hands on, practicing, implementing system, and learning how the guys worked," assistant coach Dan McHale said. "This year is more individual workouts, getting the guys stronger. It's been really good."
The early efforts are already showing. Several of the players have put on significant beneficial weight. DeAndre Mathieu has added in excess of ten pounds to his compact frame. Martin has packed on seven pounds of muscle in the short time he's been in Dinkytown. Joey King has put on more than 20 since this time last season. Morris, however, wins the prize for the summer so far, having tipped the scale by 16 pounds since arriving over Memorial Day weekend.
"A Shaun Brown special," said McHale, referencing the Gophers basketball strength and conditioning coach, who has each player on an individual program based on their needs.
Only the two foreign newcomers have yet to arrive. McHale said he hopes Mali native Bakary Konate, who is still in Kansas, and power forward and Senegal native Gaston Diedhiou, who is still in the Canary Islands, where he played last year, will arrive by mid August. Both are simply dealing with "a little international red tape," McHale said.
As the summer extends, the team's workouts will shift somewhat. The beginning of July brings three consecutive weeks of evaluation periods, meaning that the coaches will be on the road constantly from Wednesday through Sunday during the first, second and third full weeks of July.
In that time -- the first evaluation period begins July 9 -- the team will transition from mostly individual workouts to team practices on Mondays and Tuesday for one hour each. For the rest of the week, the players will work out with Brown individually, on a voluntary basis.
* According to a source, no official visits have been set up yet but several high school prospects are discussing dates. Most official visits are arranged in early August.
* In the meantime, a handful of 2015 targets have visited unofficially. Power forward Alex Illikainen, of Grand Rapids (who recently transferred to Brewster Academy in New Hampshire) and point guard Kevin Dorsey, of Virginia, both visited unofficially earlier this week while guard Jarvis Johnson, of Minneapolis and Dupree McBrayer, of New Jersey, were each in town earlier in June.