Dupree McBrayer is expected to get his second consecutive game on Wednesday vs. Chicago State.
At Tuesday’s news conference, coach Richard Pitino raved about the freshman guard, who took redshirt junior Charles Buggs’ spot in the lineup for the second time on Saturday in the Gophers’ 62-60 loss to Oklahoma State in Sioux Falls. The coach said he is comfortable keeping the McBrayer in that role.
“I loved his energy, I loved his defense, I loved his intensity, his activity,” Pitino said. “He got to the foul line a bunch… I like where he’s at. It doesn’t mean he’s not going to make mistakes – he is. But I’m excited about where he’s headed.”
McBrayer also started in an 80-83 win over Clemson on Nov. 30.
The biggest struggles for McBrayer have been with scoring. The 6-4 guard has been ice cold all season, shooting 15.4 percent from the field and 1-for-17 (5.9 percent) from three-point range.
Pitino seems wholly unconcerned with those numbers, which have not swayed him from his belief that McBrayer has the most upside of all of the freshmen despite the lack of eye-popping numbers.
Five-11 freshman guard Kevin Dorsey is averaging 7.9 points a game and 2.9 rebounds, notable considering his size. Six-6 forward Jordan Murphy, meanwhile, has been the de facto star of the bunch, averaging 10.1 points and 7.8 rebounds and recording double-doubles in three of the last four games.
“Kevin has had his moments and obviously Jordan Murphy has had some obvious good moments but
I always thought Dupree was that guy who had the most potential of all of those guys,” Pitino said. “Dupree has got what I’m looking for with players. He’s 6-4, great length, long arms …He just plays with great activity and I like that about him. He’s a guy that’s not afraid to go out there and compete and get his hands dirty.”
** Neither Dorsey nor Murphy have started this season. Asked whether he has considered starting Murphy, Pitino responded “Jordan Murphy is playing pretty well, right? So why change it. That’s my thought process. He plays a bunch.”
** Pitino gave no new hints about why he chose not to play Buggs on Saturday after sitting the forward for the second half in the previous game. “When you lose two games at home, you’ve got to try different things,” he said. “You’ve got to try different lineups when your defense isn’t where it used to be. That doesn’t mean it’s Buggs’ fault, it’s just kind of the way it worked out that game.” Pitino also said the key for all players getting on the court is to “defend, play hard, rebound and communicate.” He said Buggs’ benching has no bearing on whether he’ll play Wednesday, but gave no hints to whether he would.
** Center Bakary Konate, already out of shape, has been further slowed by an illness, Pitino said. Konate missed practice on Friday with flu-like symptoms, but still played 21 minutes on Saturday, finishing with two points, six rebounds and a block. He did request a substitute at one point in the game. Getting winded easily has been a problem for Konate all year, and he’s been visibly gassed running up and down the court. Pitino said that he was still struggling on Monday, but expects to play him Wednesday. “Getting him in shape, getting him back in shape is something we’re really working on,” he said. “I think he just needs to play more, get up and down more.”
**Pitino noted last night on his radio show that former coach Tubby Smith and that staff were the ones who had scheduled South Dakota State at home, a game the Gophers lost on Dec. 8. The last three tournaments Minnesota has played in – the Maui Invitational in 2013, the NIT Season Tip-Off in 2014 and the Puerto Rico Tip-Off this season – were all scheduled by Smith and Co. as well. Pitino said Tuesday that the South Dakota State game was the last of the obligations scheduled by the previous staff. Given the opportunity to reveal any exciting matchups already scheduled for last year, Pitino said he didn’t have anything off the top of his head.