The University of Minnesota men's basketball team hasn't had an NBA draft pick in ten years, but that doesn't mean the Gophers can't learn from the local professionals.
In fact, second-year coach Richard Pitino is hoping to take some cues from Minnesota Timberwolves general manager and head coach Flip Saunders. This summer, Pitino journeyed to Mankato for a practice leading up to tonight's preseason opener at the Pacers. Because of the Timberwolves' relative youth amongst other NBA team, Pitino sees areas of instructional crossover.
"He's got a really young team, so he's doing a lot of teaching," Pitino said. "He's teaching guys how to guard ball screens, and he's teaching them ow to slide their feet and communicate, and he does a really good job of it."
The coach said he took a couple of drills from the practice he watched, and has already implemented them with his own players.
"I was really, really impressed with [Saunders] as well as his staff -- very impressed," Pitino said.
*The Gophers will hold an open scrimmage at Williams Arena on Oct. 26th at 4 p.m.
*Walk-on tryouts will be held at the court at Bierman Field Athletic Building this coming Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Pitino told Darren Wolfson and Chris Long on 1500-a.m. that the staff is looking to add another guard and a wing. "You never know who you can find," Pitino said on 1500, noting that his starting point guard (who ended up becoming an all-conference player in the Sun Belt) at Florida International walked on.
*While Pitino has loitered around the Timberwolves organization a bit, Wolves center Gorgui Dieng has spent plenty of time in Dinkytown, lifting with Gophers strength and conditioning coach Shaun Brown and watching practices. "He's like one of my favorites that I've ever been around," Pitino said of his former player at Louisville. "He's a guy I want to hang out with and get him over here, even talking to our guys because he's a really good influence -- he's a great kid and he wasn't that good of a player when he came to Louisville and he became a very good player ... I just enjoy being around him. I consider him not really a former player but more of a friend.