Incoming freshman guards Jamal Mashburn Jr. and David Mutaf will miss the Gophers men’s basketball team’s summer workouts.
That absence has made them even more anxious about eventually joining a talented and deep backcourt for Minnesota this season.
“I think we got something [special] this year for sure,” Mashburn Jr. told the Star Tribune on Thursday. “Can’t wait to get up there and get to work.”
Mashburn, a four-star Brewster Academy (N.H.) combo guard, decided it was best to remain with his family in Florida and work out from home this summer during the pandemic. “Not tough at all,” he said about staying away from the spiking COVID- 19 infections in his state. “I have everything I need at home.”
“Summer has been good,” Mashburn added. “Just continuing to be in the best condition. And [working] on a lot of ball screen stuff at all three levels. Just excited to get started and start winning some games and playing ball.”
Ronnie Taylor, a prominent basketball trainer in Miami, has been working with Mashburn this summer with other clients at Taylor Sports Group, which includes former Gophers star guard Nate Mason.
"[Minnesota] got them a special one," Taylor said. "Jamal is gonna be special ... He's not running from anyone. He's crafty, works extremely hard, has a great feel for the game."
A sharp-shooting 6-4 native of Turkey, Mutaf hasn’t left home in Istanbul since signing with the Gophers in June. But he already has his trip to the U.S. planned for Aug. 24. He’ll arrive before the entire team is scheduled to be back together after Labor Day next month.
“I’ve been working out and trying to stay ready all summer,” Mutaf said this week. “I think I prepared myself well. I’m counting the days. Can’t wait to start practices out there.”
Gophers coach Richard Pitino told the Star Tribune on Friday that Mashburn, Mutaf, Western Michigan graduate transfer Brandon Johnson and junior guard Marcus Carr are all expected to be with the team by the time they meet before the fall semester in early September.
Pitino was pleased with the players that showed up to campus to participate in voluntary summer workouts.
“We certainly kept it light,” he said. “Lot of skill work. It’s different when your whole team is not there. For the guys who were here they worked their [tail] off and looked really good.”
Carr is obviously the top guard returning as an All-Big Ten third team point guard last season. The Gophers are expecting him to have an even bigger season after taking his name out of the NBA Draft.
Utah transfer Both Gach and sophomore Tre Williams are the most athletic guards on the roster, which they’ve shown this summer. But they also have the ability to shoot from distance and attack the basket.
Junior guard Gabe Kalscheur has stood out as a leader this summer with his work ethic and consistency. One of the Big Ten’s top three-point shooters the last two seasons, he’s becoming more polished as an all-around player.
Robbins' waiver update
The biggest question mark continues to be the waiver situation for Drake transfer Liam Robbins. The 7-footer has showed signs in practice of potentially being one of the Big Ten’s top centers. He’s certainly capable of helping to fill the void left by All-American Daniel Oturu.
Pitino said Friday the Gophers still have work to do on the process for the NCAA to make a decision on Robbins being eligible to play immediately.
“With the Liam situation they asked for a little bit more information,” he said. “We’re waiting to get that back. And with Both we haven’t even submitted that [waiver] yet.”