To our readers: Thank you for taking part in our Mailbag Monday this week. Star Tribune beat writers received many questions about the teams and leagues we cover, and each writer selected at least two questions to answer on his or her blog.
Q: Now that Rice transfer Drew Peterson has backed out of his commitment, and BJ Greenlee is transferring, who are the potential replacements on Pitino’s radar? – Dan Chang
A: Things appear to be moving quickly toward Pitino having a chance to land 17-year-old Turkish guard David Mutaf. The 6-foot-6, 200-pound native of Istanbul has been talking a lot to the Gophers staff recently -- and even saw a virtual tour of the U. They are looking to add depth at the wing after losing starting junior Payton Willis to transfer last month. Rice transfer Drew Peterson was an ideal replacement with his size and versatility, but he committed Monday to USC and has to sit out. Mutaf, who also has heard from some SEC, Big East and Pac-12 schools, is known for his three-point shooting and ability to create his own shot. His older brother, Cam Maxim Mutaf, is a member of the Turkish senior national basketball team. Mutaf has experience with the junior national team as well. What might give Minnesota an edge is fellow countryman Alihan Demir having enjoyed his senior year here last season after transferring from Drexel. Demir has said good things to Mutaf about the Gophers. If he signs with Minnesota, it will be the second straight class with a recruit from overseas, including German forward Isaiah Ihnen last year.
Q: When will the ACC-Big Ten Challenge pairings and the Big Ten schedule be announced? Any chance of a neutral-site game at Target Center? – Buzz King (@Fieldof68Freak)
A: The ACC-Big Ten Challenge matchups are typically released in early June. The Big Ten schedules could come out mid-August, but that is assuming we are talking about a normal start to the season. Would be awesome to have the Gophers play at the Timberwolves court, but I have not heard it becoming a reality yet.
Q: Did Pitino talk to Jim Petersen about the assistant position opening? – Mike55112 (@Mikewins55
A: No, I don’t think so. But that was a nice segment on Fox Sports North’s Unscripted last week when Petersen, a former Gophers player and current Wolves TV analyst, interviewed Pitino about the team. Jim had a great run on the Minnesota Lynx staff during their championship years. He is an amazing basketball mind. I just think he prefers the professional level rather than college basketball.
Q: Timetable on when a new assistant coach will be named? – TJ (@TerranceJamesII)
A: Sounds like early next week could possibly be when Pitino hires the third assistant on his staff to replace Rob Jeter, who was named the Western Illinois head coach. Hiring someone on his staff with local ties would not be a surprising move.
Q: Why would Pitino let Greenlee go when he currently has no point guards on the roster? Even if Marcus Carr comes back, a solid backup like Greenlee makes sense to keep around in case of injury. – Brennan (@Brennan88107254
A: Sounds like Pitino was pretty clear with Greenlee in their talks this spring he would not see an increased role after playing sparingly in 19 games last year. That’s not surprising, considering the Gophers are welcoming four-star guard Jamal Mashburn Jr., who is expected to be the backup to Carr next season. Greenlee, a great athlete with high basketball IQ, told Pitino last Friday he wanted to transfer to find more playing time elsewhere. The absence of Willis and Greenlee, though, leaves them lacking depth at point guard for sure.