It’s less than two weeks before the first practice of the 2018-19 season. Gophers coach Richard Pitino is still waiting for Eric Curry and Daniel Oturu to be fully cleared.
But Pitino gave an update on them Thursday in his latest blog.
“Eric and Daniel are getting close,” he wrote.
Curry, a 6-foot-9, 235-pound redshirt sophomore, missed last season with knee injuries, but he has been doing team drills in practice since the summer. The Gophers are only being cautious at this point by limiting his participation to 15 minutes of contact this fall.
Oturu, a 6-10 freshman and former four-star recruit at Cretin-Derham Hall, didn’t practice after joining the team this summer. He had reconstructive shoulder surgery in April, but Oturu is making progress and on track to play in the Nov. 6 season opener vs. Nebraska Omaha.
“Has started doing non-contact drills in practice and has looked very impressive,” Pitino wrote about his top incoming recruit. “The next step is seeing how he can do vs. contact. Was terrific in high school and AAU. I am happy we got his surgery over with in the spring, so that he can be healthy for the season.”
The Gophers posted a video Friday of Oturu throwing down dunks in practice and talking about his injury.
"I ended up having to have shoulder surgery," Oturu said. "That was kind of the first big hardship I’ve faced. It just made me a stronger player mentally, because I’m ready for anything now. My team needs me. I got to do everything I can to get healthy, so I can go out there and help them."
Two other players sidelined with injuries last season, senior Dupree McBrayer (leg) and junior Amir Coffey (shoulder) are both 100 percent healthy and already making an impression in practice, especially Coffey.
“Has that look in his eye like he wants to take the next step,” Pitino wrote Thursday. “Has had a lot of ‘wow’ moments during practice. Love the direction he is headed.”
Senior center Matz Stockman and senior guard and graduate transfer Brock Stull are slowly getting their conditioning back after missing all of practices during the summer. Stockman, who sat out last season after transferring from Louisville, didn’t get enough credits done to graduate and transfer to Cal. Stull arrived from Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
“Brock is a very good passer with a high basketball IQ,” Pitino wrote. “Both Brock and Matz weren't with us for eight weeks this summer, so this is to be expected. Matz has had some very good moments in practice. Has the size and skill. Needs to continue to push through fatigue.”
Pitino was on the radio Sunday chatting about some other topics, including the atmosphere bringing recruits to football games and the tough nonconference schedule.
FOOTBALL GAME LAST WEEK: "It was a great environment. It’s just getting better and better, which is fun to see. It was a beautiful night and it was an entertaining game. Everybody wins when you have a great football program. And I know Coach Fleck is building towards that."
SUMMER PRACTICE: "We’re getting there, which is good because it’s been a lot of fun working with these guys. Sept. 25 is our first official start of practice. You don’t feel like you have that build up. That’s a little bit of a bummer. But it’s really good to work with them every day. You just got to be mindful of you can’t wear them out too much. It’s a long, long season. We had a very, very spirted practice (Saturday). I had to tell myself it’s early September. We’ve got to pace ourselves."
SCHEDULE (seven major conference opponents in eight games in November and early December): "The goal obviously is to play for a Big Ten championship and be in the NCAA tournament. We felt like we put ourselves in that position schedule-wise this year. They rewarded teams that played tough schedules and we did that.
Oklahoma State was a really good team last year. Washington’s a really good team. Texas A&M is traditionally have been a very good team. At Boston College. These are some tough games. I wanted to schedule the Utah game to reward our fans to make sure we had a marquee nonconference opponent. Second game of the season to do that is very, very difficult. So we have to be ready. But we have some really good opportunities to get some wins. That’s the key win you’re scheduling. You’ve got to get good wins. We think we’ve put ourselves in that position."
REDSHIRT RULE FOR HOOPS: "I’ve not heard anything. That is a pretty cool rule. It’s something the football guys loved a lot. I haven’t heard anything on our end."
PLAYERS SITTING OUT: "It’s challenging. It’s good for everybody to be upfront and honest with each other about the plan. We’ve got two kids sitting out this year: Marcus Carr, who is filing a waiver, we haven’t heard back on that to play this year, and Payton Willis. It’s a little bit harder to motivate when they have that year off. It’s just they know they’ve got time. Matz dealt with that last year. But you know you just got to stay on them every single day to understand it’s a process and it takes some time. Our guys for the most part understand that."
STOCKMAN: "I think he will (help us). He’s really looked good in practice. He’s obviously got the size. He’s over 7-feet tall. He’s skilled. He’s just out of shape right now. He didn’t practice all summer. He missed eight crucial weeks. But I think once he gets in shape, he’ll be able to help us. Anytime you’ve got that size and skill at the college level you can make an impact."
COFFEY: "Looks really good. He’s got a good focus to him. Not that he’s necessariy been unfocused, but there’s definitely kind of that look in his eye that he knows this is a great opportunity for him. Last year was hard because if you look at our program to go to the NCAA tournament two years (ago) and get a 5 seed is great. I thought we were on track to do that again. I feel really, really good about the momentum of this program, but a lot of guys in the locker room they were upset at just the way unfortunately all those things happened with the injuries and the Reggie (Lynch suspension). They’re really, really eager to get back to the tournament and get back to playing at the top of the Big Ten."
NEW FLOOR AT BARN: "I think it looks really good. It really brightens it up. I thought for a second they lowered the court. I think it’ll look great on TV. We’re doing a lot of things. With that building, which is so special you’ve got to continue to find ways to improve it. Last year, we switched out the lights. We’re doing the court today. We’ll continue to do things to improve it and keep the charm."
WILL FRESHMEN PLAY? "You never know. Daniel didn’t practice all summer. Jarvis (Omersa) and Gabe (Kalscheur) have been very, very good, but you don’t know. The thing about the summer time is they’re playing without the burden of a whole lot of class. They don’t have minute restrictions. Where, hey I only played two minutes this night. Those guys get affected by those things. We’ll see. I like them a lot. All three have very bright futures. They came for the name on the front of the jerseys, which is what it’s all about. I love working with them every day."
KALSCHUER'S BIG GAME IN HS (38 points in DeLaSalle's section playoff win vs. Orono): "What I loved about that game more than anything is it was a big game, big crowd and obviously the result really mattered and he rose to the occasion. So he just plays the right way. He showed a fearlessness in that game that was great to see. He needed to make baskets in that game and he did it. He’s not just a shooter. He’s a really, really good defender – probably the best defender on the team. He’s got size. Guys like him succeed in the Big Ten. So I’m very, very excited about him. In that game especially that got me fired up. The stakes were so high and he delivered. He’s a competitor. Sometimes when you’re looking for those things they’re hard to find. But with Gabe, he showed that. He revealed that. So we know that whenever we play in a big game, in the Big Ten, in front of a big crowd, national TV, he’s not going to be scared of that. He’s going to rise to that occasion. So that was fun to see."