ROSEMONT, Ill. – The opener is less than five weeks away, but the Gophers men’s basketball team hasn’t named any captains yet for the upcoming season.
There are a few reasons for that.
For one, there aren’t two seniors on this year’s roster who can replace Jordan Murphy and Dupree McBrayer, who were the heart and soul of the program after experiencing highs and lows together during four years at the U.
Minnesota also lacks a definitive go-to guy such as guard Amir Coffey, who carried the Gophers into the NCAA tournament last season.
Mostly, though, Richard Pitino hasn’t named a captain yet because he wants all his players to place that responsibility upon themselves.
“Everybody should be a leader in a different type of way,” Pitino said Wednesday at Big Ten media day. “I think we’ve got a locker room filled with gym rats that live in the gym. I think that starts with Gabe Kalscheur, Payton Willis and Marcus Carr. They live in there. Michael Hurt and Alihan Demir as well. They’ve got to push each other every single day.”
Pitino said the team will vote on captains before the season. Carr and Hurt, both prime candidates to be captains, represented the Gophers at the annual Big Ten gathering.
Carr, a sophomore guard, sat out last season as a transfer, but he will take over Coffey’s role as the floor leader. A Toronto native, Carr started 27 games and led Pittsburgh in assists as a freshman in 2017-18.
“Amir did a great job playing the position that really wasn’t natural to him,” Carr said. “He was more of a wing player who liked to get out in transition and make plays. He did a great job of handling that last year and came on strong into that role when it mattered. For me, I’m just looking forward to making plays for my guys and for myself and putting us into position to win. I play a different style than Amir, but I’m looking to make the same impact.”
The NCAA denied Carr’s waiver last year to play immediately for the Gophers, but he used that year sitting out to his advantage to get ready for a leadership role.
“I really took last year just to learn about the team and how best I could lead the guys,” Carr said. “[The foreign tour to Italy] was a great experience this summer. I got to see how guys work and got to see how guys play together. I saw how I can put their different personalities together to make a great team.”
Hurt likely will not have a starting role this season, but he’s a role model on and off the court, having graduated in three years with a kinesiology degree. Hurt’s working on a master’s degree in business in the U’s Carlson School.
The 6-7 senior from Rochester is the only Gophers player with three years of Big Ten experience and two years of experience in the NCAA tournament.
“If we can get there one more time, that would be awesome,” Hurt said. “Being to the tournament three out of the four years is something I don’t think has been accomplished much at all at the University of Minnesota.”