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Scott M

2009-2010 Gophers

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It's never too early to get excited about Gophers hoops. I'm surprised this topic hasn't been started already. Midnight Madness is next month, Trevor Mbakwe is scheduled to stand trial in 3 months...Gophers Basketball, It's Faaannnntttastic!

Just like last year, let's start out with a few profiles of incoming freshmen, specifically, Tubby's second recruiting class:

Gophersports(GS): You first played at Marquette and then at Miami Dade College, how does it feel to be back playing basketball in Minnesota?

Trevor Mbakwe: "It feels great to be able to play in front of my family and friends. I grew up playing against guys like Blake [Hoffarber] and Al [Nolen] and now it's going to be an unbelievable experience playing with them. I'm looking forward to stepping into Williams Arena and playing in front of everyone. It's going to be a wonderful experience."

GS: How important is it to have your family and friends at the game?

Mbakwe: "It's nice. When I was at Marquette a lot of people were still able to come to my games because the distance wasn't that far, but I only played there half the year. Miami is far so my family only went to a few games, but now it's going to be totally different. I got to play in front of plenty of friends and family in high school and now they will be at my games this season."

GS: How are you liking campus life so far?

Mbakwe: "It's different being here than at my other colleges. Minnesota is a whole lot bigger than Marquette. At Marquette you can walk anywhere because it's a small private school, but Minnesota is huge. I'm still learning where everything is."

GS: How was playing in the Howard Pulley league?

Mbakwe: "I was on the same team as Devoe [Joseph] and we developed chemistry on the court. We lost in the championship, so we did pretty well. You work so hard during the summer and being able to play in games like the ones in the league really help show you where your skill level is at. It's a wonderful experience."

GS: What are your goals for the season?

Mbakwe: "The first goal I have is for the team to win. I love winning and I know we have the guys to win. We're going to surprise a lot of teams. Personally, I want to lead the conference in rebounding. That's my main goal, but I'd also like to average a double-double a game. Overall, just to win. Winning takes you everywhere."

GS: What are your career goals?

Mbakwe: "My career goal is to eventually play professional basketball. It's difficult to do and a lot of people aren't able to do it. I feel like I need to stay hungry and work hard in order to play professionally one day."

GS: Is there anyone you pattern your style of play after?

Mbakwe: "There are a lot of people I pattern my game after. There are a lot of undersized forwards who make it into the NBA like Craig Smith of the Clippers. It also helps that when Coach Smith was at Kentucky he taught a lot of undersized power forwards, who eventually made it to the next level."

GS: What are you looking forward to most this season?

Mbakwe: "I played in the Big East and now I want to play in the Big Ten. I want to play with my teammates and build chemistry with them on and off the court."

GS: How do you psyche yourself up before a game?

Mbakwe: "I listen to music and joke around with my teammates. However, when the start of the game gets closer you have to get your mind right by studying what the other team's going to do. You can have fun, but you need to know when to focus and when it's time to get serious."

GS: Do you have a favorite musical artist?

Mbakwe: "I like Jay-Z and Lil'Wayne. I like a little bit of everything, but those two are my favorite musicians."

GS: What is your favorite food?

Mbakwe: "I love chicken."

GS: Do you have a favorite TV show?

Mbakwe: "My favorite TV show is Law & Order actually. I love the initial mysteries and trying to solve each crime."

Ha ha. I like that answer. IRONY!...Trevor's been cleared to practice by Maturi but his playing status is still uncertain.

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Second part

Gophersports(GS): Going through the recruiting process you received offers from plenty of schools.

What made you choose Minnesota?

Royce White: “I like Minnesota, I grew up here. I like being in the state and I like the people of Minnesota. I like the university and I always wanted to play for the Gophers.”

GS: Are you excited that you will play in front of friends and family?

White: “It’s definitely a big piece. It’s good to have that support group close to you.”

GS: What are your goals for your first season?

White: “I want to help my team win ball games.”

GS: What are your career goals?

White: “I want to be a good teammate. I want everyone to remember that about me.”

GS: Is there anyone you pattern your style of game after?

White: “I would have to say Lebron [James]. I like to be physical by using a lot of power and force. At the same time, I take pride in my ability to dish the ball and set up my teammates.”

GS: Earlier you told a story about how you went to the Como Zoo and a silverback gorilla’s hand was pressed against the glass and your hand was just as big as his. Do you feel like having big hands is an advantage?

White: “When it comes to dribbling and pulling up off of the dribble I can control the ball a lot easier than others because of the size of my hands."

GS: “Do they affect your free throws like Shaq?”

White: “I really haven't had a problem with free throws shooting thus far in my basketball career.”

GS: “How was playing in the Howard Pulley league?

White: “It was fun. My team didn’t win, but I enjoyed playing against a lot of great competition over the summer.”

GS: You’ve been around campus the last couple of weeks, how’s everything going?

White: “I love the area. College is a fun experience. It’s something everybody should enjoy.”

GS: If you had the day to yourself what would you do?

White: “Play basektball. I want to play hard-nosed games every day that count for something. I want to play championship games over and over.”

GS: What’s your favorite food?

White: “I’ll have to go with pasta.”

GS: How about a favorite movie?

White: “I like a lot of funny movies. I would have to say Wedding Crashers.”

GS: Who’s your favorite musical artist?

White: “Bryan-Michael Cox.”

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Part 3

Gophersports(GS): Being recruited by several teams, what made you choose Minnesota?

Rodney Williams: "Playing at home was a big factor. When Tubby came to Minnesota I knew I wanted to stay home and play here."

GS: "How do you feel knowing friends and family will get to watch you play?"

Williams: "It's always a plus to have a big fan base supporting you. It will make playing at Williams Arena that much more fun."

GS: "How was playing in the Howard Pulley league?

Williams: "It was a really fun experience. Getting to play against bigger and stronger players was a bonus. The pace was a lot faster than in high school. It was different playing in that league, but a lot of fun."

GS: You're known as a high flying basketball player. How do you think your style of play will fit with Tubby's?

Williams: "My style of play is to get out and run. That's what I saw Tubby doing last year so I think it will be a good fit."

GS: Is there anyone you try to pattern your game after?

Williams: "Not really. My favorite player is Kobe [bryant], but no one can be like him."

GS: What are your goals for this season?

Williams: "I want to come in and play my role to help the team win. That being said, I think the goal should always be to win a conference championship and make the NCAA Tournament."

GS: "How are you liking being around campus?

Williams: "It's been a lot of fun. It's been great hanging out with the guys and getting use to what campus life is going to be like."

GS: Do you have any hidden talents?

Williams: "I can do backflips."

GS: Who is your favorite musical artist?

Williams: "I'd have to go with Lil' Wayne."

GS: Do you have a favorite TV show?

Williams: "Family Guy for sure."

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Part 4

Gophersports(GS): You were recruited by several schools, what made you decide to come to Minnesota?

Justin Cobbs: "The opportunity to come in and play early and travel with a good group of guys who like to work hard. Of course coming to play for coach like Tubby Smith was very important also."

GS: How are you adjusting to life around campus?

Cobbs: "It's different because you have to work on time management and know where to be at a certain time. I'm ready for the adjustment and know that it is time to grow up. I realize that I am on my own now.

GS: Besides the weather, what's the biggest difference between Minnesota and California?

Cobbs: "I'd say it's less conjested. Los Angeles is more fast moving. There are a lot of people going here and there. Here it's more quiet and mellow. You can be by yourself and not deal with a whole lot of people. That's what I like."

GS: What have you been up to this summer?

Cobbs: "Just working out and trying to do some studying. Basically just school and working out."

GS: Have you been able to hang out with your teammates?

Cobbs: "I hang out with a lot of them, especially Rodney Williams. Rodney and I talk a lot and I've also been hanging with Al [Nolen] and Damien [Johnson]."

GS: What are your expectations for the season?

Cobbs: "As for the team I hope we qualify and go far in the NCAA tournament. As far as personal, I just want to be the best player that I can be, offensively and defensively. I want to do whatever it takes to get onto the court."

GS: How do you see yourself fitting into Coach Smith's style of play?

Cobbs: "I feel I'm a good fit. I can push the ball and play defense."

GS: If you had the day to yourself, what would you do and why?

Cobbs: "I'd probably chill with family because you can't take any of that for granted. I would be with my mom, my dad and my little sister."

GS: Is your family planning on coming to any games this season?

Cobbs: "My dad is planning on coming to a lot of games. We play in Anaheim this year and my family will come out there to watch me play. They also plan on attending some of the conference games."

GS: "If you could meet any celebrity who would it be and why?

Cobbs: "Probably Lebron James because what he did for basketball. Plus he's my favorite player and I would love to see what the life of LeBron would be like."

GS: "Is there a player you try to pattern your style of play after?

Cobbs: "Chris Paul, because of the way he goes up and down the court, giving out the ball and scoring when he needs to."

GS: Do you have a favorite TV show?

Cobbs: "Not really because I watch a lot of movies."

GS: Okay, how about a favorite movie?

Cobbs: "Probably Love & Basketball and Glory Road."

GS: Who are you listening to on your iPod right now?

Cobbs: "Trey Songz and Lil' Wayne."

GS: Do you have a nickname?

Cobbs: "J. Cobbs."

No video up yet

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I hope Tubby sticks around for a long time. If he does we will see the Gophers with some very good players and very good teams.

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I agree. If Tubby sticks around, I think the Gophers will eventually field a very good team or 3.

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Its kinda sad more people don't get into the Gophers basketball scene on this site! I look forward to the Gophers and try to catch every game on TV!

I know more people will chime in once the season and especially the Big Ten season closes in!

They were fun to watch last year and should only get better especially if we can keep Tubby here!

Thanks da chise for the updates I enjoy reading them!

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I watch them when I am home, but that is not very often during their season. I am either preparing for hunting, hunting, or fishing during their season. I used to watch every game, now I am lucky to catch a half a game a week. Although I still follow who won, and the top scorers.

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First verbal committment for 2010 came in. Elliot Eliason, a 6-11 center from Chadron, Nebraska said he's coming last week. His official visit wowed him over. Scouts has him listed as the 27th best center, rivals has him unranked. Both list him as a 3 of 5 star athlete. He said his decision was between Stanford, Creighton, and Minnesota, but academics played a large part in his decision.

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Don't have the specifics, but I believe a wing/guard committed this week as well.......

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Yeah, Austin Hollins, a 6' 3" SG from Tennessee. Not a lot of buzz about the kid but he really like his official visit.

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The younger Joseph (PG) is the one they are really hoping for.....

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They said they were holding there last scholarship for a PG. that might be the reason.

I hope Cory comes and joins his brother...

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They need a good all around PG. Nolen is a great defender, but just not an offensive threat. Teams were able to sag off of him and blanket Hoffarber last year. Maybe Cobbs will help in that dept. this year?

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You and I certainly dont see eye to eye on TJack, but I will say you nailed it with regards to academics at the U. He picked the U of M over Stanford due to academics?

I get the Big Ten Network now, so I will be able to watch them finally!

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This will certainly be an exciting season. Tubby is sure bringing in the talent so now it seems that it's up to him to coach them to success. I'm looking forward to watching at least two NCAA basketball games this season.

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Should be an interesting season... just about everyone back... interested to see how the incoming Frosh... especially the MN boys fare..... I think this will be Tubby's last job... unfortunately I see retirement in the near future... I think he loves what he does, but I don't think he is like Joe Pa, Bobby Bowden.... he'll be able to let go.

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Saturday was Tubby's Tip Off, here's a recap from GopherSports:

Year four of the Tubby Smith regime began this evening as the University of Minnesota men's basketball program played host to Tubby's Tipoff. Gopher fans at Williams Arena Friday night were entertained by a Gopher squad that includes five new players (Justin Cobbs, Dominique Dawson, Trevor Mbakwe, Royce White & Rodney Williams) and nine returning players that saw significant time for Coach Smith during the Gophers NCAA Tournament run last season.

The evening was kicked off with player and coach introductions that were branded: Gopher Basketball - Transforming to the Future. Following introductions, the Gophers competed in a three-point shooting contest, where junior Blake Hoffarber defeated Cobbs 14-8 in the final. Cobbs made it to the final with a first-round high total of 11.

Gopher fans knew what was coming next. Freshman forward Rodney Williams started his Gopher career by surprising no one, en route to the Slam Dunk title, thanks to a two-round total of 65 points from celebrity judges - former Gopher three-point threat Jamal Abu-Shamala, former Gopher baseball All-American Greg Olson and former Twins third baseman Scott Leius. Williams' two dunks included a flight over Minnesota mascot "Goldy Gopher" and a 360-degree dunk from the free-throw line.

Following Williams' win in the dunk contest, 20 minutes went on the Williams arena clock and the fans were able to see Golden Gophers basketball for the first time in 2009-10. The maroon team of Paul Carter, Cobbs, Dawson, Hoffarber, Colton Iverson, Trevor Mbakwe and Al Nolen defeated the gold team by a score of 49-33.

The Golden Gophers open the regular season at Williams Arena on Friday, Nov. 13 against Tennessee Tech. However, Minnesota's season actually gets underway on Thursday, Nov. 5 in an exhibition slate versus the University of Minnesota Duluth. The Gophers other exhibition game will be Monday, Nov. 9 against Minnesota State Moorhead. Both exhibition contests will also be held at Williams Arena.

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Sounds like a decision on Mbawke will be made early next week. Dude has a 42" vert and physically is a beast...he could make all the difference for this team this year.

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From what I have been hearing it sounds as if he will be cleared.

He would be a great help to this team.

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Myron Medcalf at the Star Tribune does a nice job following the gopher men.

For the third year in a row, reporters aren't allowed to watch Gophers men's basketball practice. Trust me, I've sought access many, many times. But that's not Tubby Smith's style.

I talked to a team source Monday morning who gave me this rundown of Gophers men's basketball, after nearly two weeks of practice:

-Royce White is the team's top post presence, and he's playing like a go-to guy in practice sessions.

-Rodney Williams is holding his own and he's going to contribute this season.

-Al Nolen is playing well.

-Justin Cobbs gives the team a lot of extra speed.

-Colton Iverson has had some struggles so far, which isn't surprising when considering Minnesota's upgrade in athleticism.

-Trevor Mbakwe, if he's allowed to play, could be a major difference-maker for the Gophers.

-Devoe Joseph and Lawrence Westbrook are both making strong cases for the starting two-spot.

I guess I'm not surprised by any of this.

After the Midnight Madness scrimmage and conversations with team insiders, and I don't get too excited after a loose scrimmage and a few practices, I think:

-Mbakwe has the potential to be the one of the Big Ten's best power forwards. Can anyone name a true power forward in the Big Ten? DeShawn Sims doesn't mind settling for jump shots. Dallas Lauderdale is all defense. I still see JaJuan Johnson as more of a center. There just aren't a lot of them in this league. Plus, he's a rebounder.

-In the end, White's talent, size, strength and skill set will be too valuable to use in a reserve role. I think Smith will bring him off the bench at the start of the season. But as the Gophers get closer to the 76 Classic, an event that will grant the Gophers a chance to earn every necessary nonconference victory for their NCAA tournament resume, White might be a starter.

-Cobbs is ready to play now. He's 190 pounds as a freshman. One of Joseph's challenges last season and Nolen's two years ago was a lack of strength. I think his physicality alone elevates his status in Smith's eyes.

-I'm so confused about Williams. One minute, I can't figure out how the Gophers will use him. Other times, I think about the Big Ten and its lack of athleticism. Don't get me wrong. The Big Ten has some good, athletic players. But I don't know how many guys have Williams' next-level, did-he-just-do-that, I-didn't-know-a-human-being-could-jump-that-high athleticism. Williams has that. There has to be a way for Minnesota to use that to its advantage, right?

-Ralph Sampson III is one go-to move and a few rebounds per game away from a shot at the NBA. He's going to get a chance. If NBA scouts aren't sold on his game, they'll definitely appreciate his 6-11 frame and genetics. That's not enough to send him to The League. But it's enough to help him earn an opportunity. My prediction: If he averages a double-double this season, he'll get serious consideration from the pros. I don't know if that will happen this season, but the addition of Mbakwe and White will help him by giving him an opportunity to focus on being a center. No more part-time power forward because that's not who he is.

-When I tell my grandkids about Paul Carter, I wonder if I'll describe him this way: "Kids, he was good. He had a solid all-around game. He could dribble, pass, shoot and score in a variety of ways. But he was the odd man out in a deep talent pool." I just get the feeling that Minnesota's new depth will hinder the potential of a few guys, but I think Carter might take the biggest blow.

-I don't know what to make of the slimmed down Westbrook. I appreciated the bulky Westbrook. Bulky Westbrook used his strength to compensate for whatever he lacked in height. Bulky Westbrook had the mass to create space for himself against taller defenders. Slimmed down Westbrook says he hasn't lost any of his strength. We'll see.

I totally agree about Westbrook. I wasn't too excited to hear he had lost all that weight. He was already a pretty quick kid but he could occasionally bull to the basket when you needed a bucket.

I really thought Paul Carter was going to be a nice piece coming back but with the influx of athleticism he may be the odd man out.

I am a little worried about Tubby's rotation. If you thought last year made no sense, imagine this year. Yes, it's nice the team is deep but if he can't settle on a rotation and be consistent, they will have similar problems as last year.

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