Nate Mason is back at full capacity less than a week after sustaining a bone bruise initially thought to be a much worse injury.
The University of Minnesota’s sophomore guard, perhaps the team’s most complete player heading into the 2015-16 season, landed awkwardly on his left leg during last Monday’s practice, immediately falling to the floor. Until the MRI, Gophers coach Richard Pitino and his staff feared it could be a torn ACL, which often occur in similar fashion, without contact from other players.
“It was non-contact and he dropped and he was in pain and it scared everybody,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said at Big Ten media day last week. “Fortunately, it was just a bone bruise.”
Pitino projected that Mason would be out a week, and the 6-1 Georgia native landed well shy of that, competing in a closed scrimmage on Friday evening. He finished with 20 points, three assists and two turnovers in 32 minutes split between both the maroon and gold teams.
Meanwhile, the timetable for Bakary Konate to return is still on track, team official Dan Reisig said. Pitino said on Thursday that the sophomore expected starting center is expected to miss another three weeks due to a stress fracture in his left foot. Minnesota opens at home against Missouri-Kansas City on Nov. 13, just over four weeks from last Thursday. The Gophers play two exhibition games before that, on Nov. 1 and Nov. 6.
“It’s close, so I think the fear is that he’s got to be in shape, he’s got to be ready to play …I have no idea, I hope he is,” Pitino said, who noted he would like to see Konate practice “a couple” time before taking the court in a game. “My thing is always, he needs some practices before he plays. We anticipate him playing, but I don’t know. I doubt he’ll play in the exhibitions.”
Pitino said Konate’s injury was also not contact-related.
“Bakary just came to practice and said ‘My foot is hurting,’” Pitino said. “I said ‘Alright, get off the court,’ and took [an MRI] and it was a stress fracture. I’m not sure where it came from.”
For now, Konate is only lifting weights and watching practice, while Pitino is taking a blunt look at his options behind his 6-11 big man. Raw 6-9 forward Gaston Diedhiou is still the No. 1 backup, Pitino said, but he has also tried both senior Joey King – a 6-9 stretch-power forward – and Jordan Murphy, a 6-6 natural wing.
“What I kind of like, I guess, is it forces Gas to take a different role in practice, it’s forcing me to try Jordan Murphy at the five a little, Joey at the five, just in case of foul trouble,” Pitino said. “So it’s not good but it’s been helpful a little bit to get some different lineups out there for practice.
“…That first exhibition game will be a better gauge. I think we’ve got to be prepared for everything – Gas, Joey at the 5, we’ve got to play Jordan Murphy at the 5 some. It’s a good offensive lineup, but I don’t know, defensively, if it’s where we need to be.”