Andre Hollins, whose cheek was hurt diving for a ball, helps being a new toughness to the Gophers

Andre Hollins, whose cheek was hurt diving for a ball, helps being a new toughness to the Gophers

Last year, coach Tubby Smith was outwardly expressive of his concern with a lack of “toughness” on the team. Nine of the Gophers' 14 losses were by single digits; tight games seemed lost in the closing minutes.

“You can be physical without being tough, but you can’t be tough without being physical,” Smith said Monday, reflecting on a 2010-11 team that couldn’t convert when it mattered.

This year, he thinks he has the winning combination. As he sifted through signing candidates over the offseason, it was something he kept in mind. Early, Smith seems to believe it will pay off. He grins when he talks about two young starting candidates – Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins – playing so tough in a practice scrimmage that they collided and Andre had to get stitched in his cheek. He lauds several young players in general for their outlook.

“Joe Coleman gives us a toughness we really didn’t have,” he said. “Andre Hollins gives us a toughness that we didn’t have. Andre Ingram brings a toughness we didn’t have. Sometimes you have to go out and recruit it, and I think that’s what we did.”

Other notes on that:
  • Smith said Ralph Sampson III has shown a lot of aggressiveness and more toughness so far in practice. “That’s something I’m impressed with,” Smith said.
  • Rodney Williams said with the team healthy again, “the competitive nature is really high right now.”
  • Oto Osenieks: “We’re definitely tougher this year, mentally and physically … it’s intense, but there are no friends on the court. We get after each other and we all want to win. So we make each other better.”