Gophers coach Richard Pitino has seen enough of senior Akeem Springs in the first few practices to already notice a big difference with the way his team performs with him on the court.
Pitino said Tuesday that Springs, a graduate transfer from Wisconsin-Milwaukee, has "changed the tone" of practice since his arrival in August.
"Akeem Springs has come in and provided great leadership," Pitino said. "A lot better than I ever thought he would. He's come in with great confidence, maybe it's because he came in (with Milwaukee) and beat us last year. He should be confident."
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound guard averaged 13 points and five rebounds for Milwaukee last season. He's expected to compete for a starting spot in the backcourt for the Gophers.
"He's got a way of getting on guys the right way," Pitino said of Springs. "I think the young guys don't know how to talk to each other. He's had a couple moments in practice where he's gotten on guys, and it's perked everybody up."
Springs joins 6-10 center Reggie Lynch and 6-8 forward Davonte Fitzgerald as Division I transfers expected to immediately impact the team this year. Lynch is out after having surgery on his left knee, but it doesn't appear to be serious, Pitino said.
"He should be about 2 1/2 weeks away or so," Pitino said of Lynch. "I think it's pretty minor from what I've been told. So I think it was more to get it out of the way now. Hopefully, it's nothing serious. I don't think it is. I think he'll be back, hopefully by the last week of October. "
Junior Bakary Konate replaced Lynch as the starting center in practice. Freshman Eric Curry also played the position with some of the first group. But the starters at this point appear to be junior guard Nate Mason, Springs, freshman guard Amir Coffey, sophomore forward Jordan Murphy and Konate.
Mason, the team's returning leader in points (13.4) and assists (4.5), loves the spark and expereince Springs adds to the Gophers this year.
"I've been learning a lot from Akeem," Mason said. "Akeem's a five-year player. He came in here with a lot of confidence and a lot of swagger. He's just a great leader. He came in here not being weary, not worrying about what others have to say. That showed a lot of people that he's all about business."