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hamrej23

2008-2009 Gophers

223 posts in this topic

What does everyone think of their chances for the dance next year?

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Another bubble year with lots of growing pains. It's a team that needs to show some intensity and improve on deficiencies instead of getting the same weaknesses exposed consistently like last year's team. Lots of people said the 5 incoming recruits were better than last year's starting 5, so we shall see.

I think people are counting on them to make noise in 2009-2010, so anything you get from them this year is just gravy.

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As long as they improve from last year, I will be happy. It sure is fun to have a quality coach who can recruit. Give him another year or 2 and we should expect tournament play every season. I am looking forward to this year though.

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me to..I am going to say they make it to a number 10 seed.

gonna be fun!

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Paul Carter has quickly adapted to Minnesota

GopherSports

8/22/08

Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of a five-part series documenting the arrival of Tubby Smith’s first recruiting class at the U of M.

Unofficially, Paul Carter will go down in history as the first player to orally commit to Tubby Smith at the University of Minnesota and then follow through on his verbal agreement and sign a National Letter of Intent with the Gophers.

After seeing Carter play in Jerry Mullen’s 120 Elite Camp in Tulsa last July, the former junior college prospect became a top priority for the Minnesota basketball staff and it took them little time to convince the 6-foot-8, 195 pound forward he would be a perfect fit in Maroon and Gold.

But while getting Carter to agree upon becoming a Gopher took relatively no time – he orally committed to the team late last August, without even a campus visit - it took quite some time for the former Missouri State University-West Plains Community College star to actually arrive on campus.

As many of his future teammates and fellow recruits, Colton Iverson, Ralph Sampson and Devron Bostick, were getting acclimated to Minnesota this summer and working on their games by playing in the Howard Pulley Summer League, Carter was busy attending summer school in West Plains to ensure he would be granted three years of eligibility at Minnesota.

Carter didn’t arrive on campus until last Thursday, August 14th, giving him just over two weeks to adjust to his new surroundings before classes begin in early September.

In his first week at the “U,” Carter has been active taking care of a few priorities for any new student. First Carter moved into his apartment at Roy Wilkins where he’ll be rooming with Sampson this year. Seeing the setup of his dorm suite, complementary with his own room, was a pleasant surprise to Carter.

“I love Wilkins, it its real nice,” Carter said. “It’s a big change coming from West Plains where we had to share (dorm) rooms.”

Next on Carter’s agenda was registering for classes that fit with his goal of attaining a communications degree. With that now complete - he’s set to take 14 credits this fall – Carter has spent the majority of his time on campus building chemistry with his teammates, on and off the court.

“I’ve been playing ball here and there with the guys, shooting and working out,” Cater said. “I go down to the gym with Lawrence Westbrook and Jamal (Abu-Shamala) and Travis (Busch) and Blake (Hoffarber) are there sometimes. We play three on three, we play some one on one, and we do a lot of shooting.”

Carter doesn’t have a favorite hangout place in Dinky Town yet, but when he does venture out around campus, chances are he is looking for some Chinese food. He’s already been to a few different Chinese restaurants on campus in a weeks’ time and Abu-Shamala even took him to another Chinese restaurant off campus.

“Chinese food, that’s my favorite. I really like chow mein noodles and any kind of chicken or beef,” Carter said.

What else should Gopher fans knows about Carter?

“I’m probably a nerd,” Carter said. “I’m into Sci Fi and a lot of computer stuff. You don’t get that with a lot of athletes, but I’ll be in my room watching anime.”

Ready and able

When away from his laptop, Carter has been at the gym trying to improve his game.

“I sleep, I go play ball and I eat, Carter joked.”

Carter had sports hernia surgery early last December after playing through abdominal pain for two months. The surgery rid Carter of the pain, but ever since taking a month off to recover he has been attempting to get back to top form.

“Actually things were harder after the injury because I was in tip-top shape and my legs were under me (before the surgery), but when I came back I had to get shots up and my legs under me and get back into shape.”

Because of his maturity and athleticism Tubby Smith has said publicly that he is counting on Carter to make an immediate impact as a Gopher. Carter doesn’t yet know exactly what his role will be for Minnesota in year one, but he is ready to compete.

“I’m just going to play hard, always go hard, and set a good example,” he said.

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August Update

from Myron Medcalf, Star Tribune

Sam Dower, the 6-9 Osseo PF/C who recently received an offer from the Gophers, took an unofficial visit to Minnesota two weeks ago, according to his AAU coach, Marquise Watts. He met with Tubby Smith.

Watts said Dower narrowed his list down to five schools (Gonzaga, George Mason, Cal, Minnesota and Marquette) last week, after receiving nearly 25 Division I offers, some of which came after Dower’s strong performances at AAU tourneys in Phoenix and Las Vegas. Minnesota seemed hesitant after watching his performances in various tournaments this summer, but now, they’re interested.

But Watts said Dower wants to make sure that the Gophers really want him. Watts said coaches from George Mason and Gonzaga attended all of Dower’s games in Phoenix and Las Vegas. He also said Dower doesn’t feel obligated to play closer to home.

A few weeks ago, Gophers sources told me that they weren’t sure about Dower. They were worried about his rebounding skills and his sporadic aggressiveness.

We’ll see how this all plays out. I think Dower is a project. The Gophers already have two projects in the post already in Ralph Sampson and Colton Iverson.

Dower reminds me of former Georgetown C Roy Hibbert. When he’s into the game and playing with a lot of heart, he’s dangerous. But there are times when you watch him play and wonder if he truly has a passion for basketball. But he’s young, and he may turn out to be a great player. He definitely has a ton of raw talent.

***********

Trevor Mbakwe, the former Marquette forward, fits the profile of the kind of player that the Gophers really need. It was clear throughout last season that players like D.J. White, Raymar Morgan, Geary Claxton and Marcus Landry hurt the Gophers because of their lack of bulk inside.

At 6-7, 240 pounds, Mbakwe would help out a team that added height with its latest recruiting class but little muscle. But I don’t think he’ll wind up with the team this season for a number of reasons.

Tubby Smith doesn’t like to bring in transfers. Keeping a guy on the bench for a year doesn’t help his team win now, which is why he’s not in favor of them. Also, Minnesota is out of scholarships.

Sources tell me that the Gophers think the best thing for Mbakwe to do is go to a junior college for a year, play well and earn a scholarship for the 2009-10 season. But, Smith’s staff doesn’t know much about Mbakwe, who was a star at St. Bernard’s High School. When Mbakwe first thought about leaving Marquette earlier this year, the Gophers were focused on Krys Faber and Verdell Jones and told Mbakwe that they weren’t interested in services at the time.

Mbakwe’s definitely worth a look because of his size alone. His presence would give Minnesota more power in the paint. He didn’t get off to a good start with Marquette because of injuries, but he showed signs of his potential in limited action last season.

Overall, Mbakwe would be a nice addition for team that has a lot of scorers and needs more sturdy defenders and rebounders.

________________________________________

Still waiting on that Gophers schedule from the Big Ten. Looks like a fun team to watch. They'll graduate a couple more kids and pick up some more scholarships which seem to be more and more valuable as Tubby is talking to a lot of big time talent.

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Doug Gottlieb at ESPNews has MN ranked #5 and tourney bound for 08-09

He had

1)Purdue

2)Michigan State

3)Wisconsin

4)Ohio State

5)Minnesota

6)Illinois

7)Michigan

8)Northwestern

9)Iowa

10)Penn State

11)Indiana

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Editors Note: This is the second installment of a five-part series documenting the arrival of Tubby Smith’s first recruiting class at the U of M.

GopherSports

8/29/08

Colton Iverson had no shortage of intriguing scholarship offers when it came down to selecting the right school to play Division I collegiate basketball.

The Yankton, South Dakota native visited the University of Florida to meet with coach Billy Donovan but declined a scholarship offer from, at that time, the two-time defending National Champion Gators.

The 6-10, 240-pound center, who can also play power forward, was also heavily recruited by Nebraska and Creighton – two programs who are by no means slouches on the D-I men's basketball scene.

It shouldn't be forgotten that practically the whole state of Iowa sought Iverson's services - both the Hawkeyes (Iowa) and Cyclones (Iowa State) extended offers the big man's way.

In the end though, following discussions with Minnesota coach Tubby Smith and his staff, a campus visit last fall, and a home visit from Smith, Iverson announced late last September he would become a Gopher.

“On my visit I felt really comfortable on campus," said Iverson, who sent in his National Letter of Intent in November. "Coach Smith made everything seem right and I had a good vibe with them. Plus (Minnesota) is close to home."

Following a monster senior season at Yankton High School - he finished his high school career with back-to-back stat lines of 35 points and 16 rebounds and 27 points and 20 boards - Iverson moved to campus in late June to take summer classes and to become accustomed to the ‘U.’

Iverson, who is currently pursuing a sports management degree, took two summer term classes – statistics and freshmen writing. He attended class Mondays through Thursdays, electing to lift weights and shoot around at Williams Arena whenever free time presented itself: before an afternoon class; during a lunch break following a morning session; or at night when the gym cleared following Tubby Smith Basketball Camp

During his short mid-summer tenure in Minneapolis, Iverson also played weekday games in the Howard Pulley Summer League, teaming with fellow incoming recruit Ralph Sampson and sophomore point guard Al Nolen. Iverson said the trio was able to build some solid on-court chemistry.

“It was a good experience," Iverson said of playing with his future teammates. "We got to learn a little bit about each other's games and styles. I think we built a chemistry from that."

Off the court, Iverson was also able to build relationships with his new teammates and fellow incoming freshmen.

When Iverson wasn't learning about what exactly "Dinkytown" is while grabbing a bite to eat with teammate Travis Busch (right now Burrito Loco and Mesa Pizza are his top food choices in the area), he was likely hanging out with fellow incoming freshmen, including a few Gopher football players, at or around the superblock dorms.

Iverson will room with teammate Devoe Joseph at Yudof this season but spent his first month and a half living on campus at the Centennial dorm while participating in the U's Summer Bridge Program, a program revolving around activities that allow incoming students to get to know each other and the campus better before the start of fall term.

South Dakota Connection

While Iverson spent his summer on campus making new acquaintances, he also continued a fairly high profile connection with a new Minnesota professional athlete.

Iverson was ranked the 19th best center prospect in the country by Scout.com, but oddly enough, won't be the former South Dakota basketball standout with the highest amount of expectations to play for a Minnesota basketball team this season.

That weight will be placed on the shoulders - and shooting stroke - of Mitchell, S.D. native Mike Miller, the sharp shooting guard/forward who was recently acquired by the Minnesota Timberwolves in a June draft night trade with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Iverson grew up idolizing Miller, watching every possible Florida Gator game accessible in S.D. Yet here and now the two have established a relationship.

Through an AAU basketball connection with Miller's cousin, Iverson started a bond with Miller and has been in contact with him. It's a safe bet that Iverson will at least attempt to find time to see Miller live at Target Center at least once this season, homework permitting.

“I idolized him,” Iverson said.

Expecting Big Things

Iverson has spent the past three weeks in Yankton catching up with family and friends but is looking forward to returning to campus this weekend and getting to work in the classroom and on the court.

With the departures of big men Spencer Tollackson and Dan Coleman, Iverson will be thrown into the fire as a true freshman - something he appears to relish, not fear.

“It should be fun,” said Iverson on what awaits him in year one in maroon and gold.

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Editors Note: This is the third installment of a five-part series documenting the arrival of Tubby Smith’s first recruiting class at the U of M.

GopherSports

9/4/2008

Usually the first thing that surprises a Gopher men’s basketball recruit is the elevated floor at Williams Arena. But when you’re like Devoe Joseph, a 19-year-old who was born and raised in Canada, even the smallest of cultural differences are bound to standout when you start living on your own in an unfamiliar country.

For example, the 6-3 combo guard from Pickering, Ontario was surprised to learn that Coffman Memorial Union, the state of Minnesota, and for that matter, all of the United States, offer waffle fries. According to Joseph, the country located geographically north of the U.S. only offers traditional french fries, ala McDonalds form.

It’s not exactly a significant geographical revelation - such as the fact that Canada has 3.5 percent more land but 8.8 percent less of a population than the U.S – but it is one of the few cultural changes Joseph has recognized a week into his U of M career.

Luckily, the game of basketball is played in the U.S. under relatively the same guidelines as it is in Canada. The court is between 84-94 feet long and 50 feet wide. The rim has an 18 inch diameter. And the basketball weighs roughly 1.4 pounds. It’s those reasons, among many others, why college basketball experts expect Joseph to make a huge dent in the Gopher men’s basketball program, beginning with his freshman campaign.

Joseph, a recipient of scholarship offers from Vanderbilt, Texas, Virginia Tech and 2008 National Champion Kansas, is considered one of the best players to come out of Canada in recent memory and is a major reason Tubby Smith’s first recruiting class is ranked by some as one of the Top 25 in the country.

Joseph’s strong prep resume is what grasped the attention of coaches all around the NCAA men’s basketball scene. Playing for Pickering High School and AAU Grassroots Canada, Joseph showed he is a big-time scorer with a solid mid-range game... And a winner.

He was named Canadian High School Player of the Year on three occasions at Pickering and during that time his high school team went a combined 45-4. For his efforts, Joseph was recognized as one of the top high school players in the world when he was asked to compete in the Nike Hoops Summit game last March, an annual event which features top prep players from around the world, ages 19 or younger.

The biggest honor to come Joseph’s way, though, came this summer when he was invited to try out for the Canadian Olympic team. Joseph practiced with the national team for two weeks but was one of the squads’ final cuts.

Joseph originally planned to join his teammates on campus this summer following his stint with the national team but he wasn’t granted clearance to head to campus in time to begin taking summer classes. So, while many of his teammates competed in the Howard Pulley Summer League, Joseph spent the final two months of his summer shooting and lifting near his parents’ house to prepare for this season.

It wasn’t until Aug. 25 until Joseph moved into his apartment at Yudof Hall where he is rooming with fellow freshmen newcomer Colton Iverson. While they didn’t know each other before rooming together, the two have already started off on the right foot.

“We didn’t know each other at all before but he’s a great guy. We get along great. He’s a real nice guy and real big too. He eats a lot. If I eat as much as him, I’ll be (huge),” Joseph joked.

All kidding (and food) aside, Joseph is focused on putting his blueprint on the Minnesota basketball program. He still remembers the “Devoe” chant and warm reception given to him by the Barnyard on his official visit last winter. Now he wants to reward the maroon and gold faithful for making him feel at home at the U -another big reason he chose the Gophers over the other schools.

Joseph was always looked upon to score on his AAU and high school teams, therefore was always known for his offensive skill set. But one of the reasons Joseph elected to become a Gopher is because he wanted to partake in Smith’s intense full court pressure defense. A scorer that prides himself on defense... Excited yet?

“Any good basketball player doesn’t want a player to score on them,” said Joseph. “Defense wins championship and that’s why I came to play for Coach Smith.”

Joseph, who is taking 13 credits this fall and plans on majoring in sports management, has just begun working out with the team. Already, he likes what he sees.

“Playing open gym with the guys... they look pretty strong and athletic, it’s intense,” said Joseph of his first few workouts with the team. “You have to work hard. Coach works us hard so we play better (in season).”

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Here's the clip from the Big Ten Network, Minnesota Basketball: The Journey

While I think the team's locker room celebration of Hoffarber's BTT game winner was excessive, it was an interesting look from the inside.

After the game I wrote "I was prepared for the Gophers to lose in a new and devasting way. I don't care if a guy tries to rip you to the floor, you gotta grab that rebound. The box out was horrible. There was no way it should have come down to Hoffarber's buzzer beater." Still feel that way. There were some bright spots last year but at the end of the year I was left with the what if? factor. Too many mistakes that were made over and over by the same players, too many losses that came in the same manner. Hopefully the returning players show they have learned from their mistakes and gotten better. That was often the knock on Monson teams, that the players never improved.

I would like to think that in a few years we will be able to look back at the 07-08 season as the baby steps towards being a great team in contention for a conference championship. The great thing in basketball is you can make huge strides in just changing how you play the game or how your coach approaches the game. It also helps to have better athletes and players, but how you play, how you practice, and your mindset means its easier to turn things around. I would argue that it takes more time in a sport like football, where the field of play is bigger and athlete size, strength, and skill level disparity is far easier to exploit.

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Saw the gophers schedule late last week, and to put it in NCAA terms, it will result in a large RPI. Too put it bluntly, it is full of rollover soft teams. Tubby must really want to crack the tournament, but he should know that it takes more than wins.

Gopher's Men's Basketball Schedule

  • Mon, Nov 03 St. Cloud State (Exh) HOME
  • Thu, Nov 06 Northern State (Exh) HOME
  • Fri, Nov 14 Concordia-St. Paul HOME
  • Sat, Nov 15 Bowling Green HOME
  • Sun, Nov 16 Georgia State HOME
  • Sat, Nov 22 Colorado State AWAY
  • Wed, Nov 26 Eastern Washington HOME
  • Sat, Nov 29 North Dakota State HOME
  • Tue, Dec 02 Virginia HOME
  • Sat, Dec 06 Cornell HOME
  • Wed, Dec 10 South Dakota State HOME
  • Sat, Dec 20 Louisville NEUTRAL(TOURNEY)
  • Tue, Dec 23 Southeastern Louisiana HOME
  • Sun, Dec 28 High Point HOME
  • Wed, Dec 31 Michigan State HOME
  • Sat, Jan 03 Ohio State HOME
  • Thu, Jan 08 Iowa AWAY
  • Sun, Jan 11 Penn State HOME
  • Thu, Jan 15 Wisconsin AWAY
  • Sun, Jan 18 Northwestern AWAY
  • Thu, Jan 22 Purdue HOME
  • Sun, Jan 25 Indiana AWAY
  • Thu, Jan 29 Illinois HOME
  • Wed, Feb 04 Michigan State AWAY
  • Sat, Feb 07 Ohio State AWAY
  • Tue, Feb 10 Indiana HOME
  • Sat, Feb 14 Penn State AWAY
  • Thu, Feb 19 Michigan AWAY
  • Sun, Feb 22 Northwestern HOME
  • Thu, Feb 26 Illinois AWAY
  • Wed, Mar 04 Wisconsin HOME
  • S/S, Mar 07/08 Michigan HOME
  • Big Ten Tournament

Smith defends soft schedule

by Myron Medcalf, Star Tribune

At first glance, Minnesota's men's basketball schedule for 2008-09 looks about as soft as State Fair cookies. The Gophers will have home matchups against High Point, Southeastern Louisiana, Eastern Washington and a season-opener against Division II squad Concordia-St. Paul, not to mention North Dakota State and South Dakota State.

From Tubby Smith's perspective, however, the schedule has the right balance to give a young Gophers team an opportunity to grow before Big Ten play begins.

He said building up his team's confidence was a factor in the way the schedule was arranged. The Gophers will have five new players without any Division I experience.

"This is what you're going to see happening at a lot of schools," he said. "Now, you beat up on each other and you only take four schools from your conference."

Smith, who is also the National Association of Basketball Coaches president, said more teams will ease up on their nonconference schedules for fear of losing risky non-league matchups that affect postseason bids. He compared scheduling in college basketball to college football, where teams often face weak nonconference opponents.

"The same thing happens in football," he said. "Nobody's going to add another Notre Dame to their schedule."

Minnesota opens up the season with the NABC Classic, a four-team tournament at Williams Arena on Nov. 14. Highlights from the nonconference schedule include a home matchup against NCAA tournament team Cornell (Dec. 6), a contest against Louisville in Phoenix (Dec. 20) and a home game against Virginia (Dec. 2) as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. In all, 10 out of Minnesota's 12 nonconference games will be at home, with one road game and one neutral court game.

Jerry Palm, an expert on the Ratings Percentage Index, which is used by the NCAA tourney selection committee, said that the Gophers will have a difficult time getting into the tournament without a strong showing in the Big Ten. The NCAA Selection Committee leans heavily on strength of schedule and road victories.

"It's the kind of schedule that requires you to go 11-7 in the league to have a chance to even get a discussion with the committee," said Palm, who runs collegerpi.com. "Louisville is the only [nonconference] opponent that gets your attention, although I don't know off the top of my head what to expect from Virginia."

**************************************

I guess I see where Tubby is coming from, but you can't coddle the kids either if you ever want to take them places. Why not battle test them right away, throw them into the fire? I mean, what D1 team isn't full of young and inexperienced players? There aren't 4th and 5th year seniors anymore, it's 1-3 years and then move on. He better be a man of his word about the schedule in years to come.

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The only two tough matchups would be Virginia, who will suprise people this year, and Louisville.

The big ten season is really all that is going to matter anyways to get into the dance/

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Editor’s note: This is the fourth installment of a five-part series documenting the arrival of Tubby Smith’s first recruiting class at the U of M.

from GopherSports

9/15/2008

Ralph Sampson III has heard horror stories about the frigid Minnesota winters. The freshman from Duluth, GA doesn't know what to expect once temperatures dip, winds swirl and snow falls, but he believes he’ll be able to adjust just fine to the conditions.

“I’ve got a few warnings,” Sampson said. “I’ll definitely need to get adjusted to it, but it will be something I’ll be able to handle.”

These days, the 6-11, 220 pound power forward is adjusting to a lot of unknowns.

Since arriving on campus June 11th, the big man has been taking in everything around his new residence, from restaurants in Dinkytown to the names of the different lecture halls.

Here’s what he has learned so far about his new area code:

1) The U of M campus is much cleaner than the others he visited.

2) Qdoba and Potbelly’s are within a two minute walk from his dorm room at Roy Wilkins.

3) The people that make up the campus are curious, but friendly. “It’s kind of almost like a Southern Hospitality,” Sampson said of the welcoming reception he’s received from U of M students and staff.

Sampson’s transition to his new area code was eased initially when his sister, Rachel, and cousin, Adam, accompanied him to campus this summer. While Sampson took two summer classes - speech and history - both did the same while training for their respective sports (Rachel – tennis, Adam – swimming).

Between classes, Sampson headed to Williams Arena to work on his game. On weeknights, he also participated in the Howard Pulley Summer League, teaming with point guard Al Nolen and center Colton Iverson in an effort to build preseason chemistry.

The son of former collegiate and NBA standout Ralph Sampson spurred offers from the likes of Clemson, Georgia Tech, Maryland and Kentucky to become a Gopher. After a monstrous senior season stat line of 19.6 points, 10.3 rebounds and seven blocks per game for Northview High School, Ralph III – rated the 12th best center prospect in the country by Scout.com - is expected to see significant playing time in his first year following the graduation of power forward Dan Coleman and center Spencer Tollackson.

Two weeks into the school year and Sampson finds himself with very little free time. Each weekday morning he joins his teammates for conditioning. Nearly every night, he participates in open gym at “The Barn.”

Classes and homework take up a majority of the remainder of Sampson’s days, but when he is able to get away, Ralph III says he enjoys wandering around campus getting to know new people – something that hasn’t been too difficult as Gopher fans often recognize, and strike up conversations with, one of the cornerstones of Tubby Smith’s first recruiting class.

On one occasion, a Gopher fan spotted Sampson leaving his dorm and walked and talked with him for nearly a mile.

“He asked everything from how I like coming to the U, to what’s it like playing for Coach Smith,” Sampson said about the inquisitive fan.

With the Gophers fresh off a 20-14 season and expectations high after an impressive Big Ten tournament run, a subsequent NIT berth and a Top 25 recruiting class, Sampson can expect many more spur of the moment conversations as excitement builds for the 2008-09 season.

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Editor’s note: This is the fifth and final installment that documents the arrival of Tubby Smith’s first recruiting class at the U of M.

From Gophersports

The ring on Devron Bostick’s right hand sticks out like a sore thumb. You can’t miss it.

It’s bulky, its shinny, and more importantly, it’s the main reason why Gopher fans should be giddy that Tubby Smith landed the 6-5, 210 pound junior as part of his first recruiting class at the University of Minnesota.

The diamond gem on the Racine, Wis. native’s right ring finger – which is comparable in size and look to a Super Bowl Championship ring - is a symbol for the individual accolades Bostick racked up after completing his second and final season of junior college basketball.

After a monstrous sophomore campaign at Southwest Illinois Community College in which he averaged a team-high 18.2 points per game, 4.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists, Bostick was, to his surprise, named the 2008 National Junior College Athletic Association Player of the Year.

When Bostick was notified through SICC head coach Jay Harrington that he had won the award, he was shocked. He didn’t even think he was in consideration for the honor.

“I was real surprised,” Bostick said. “My coach had someone tell me and I said ‘quit playing.’ I thought it was a joke or something.”

It was no joke. Nor was it four months after the season when, at the nomination of the SICC Athletic Director and President, the small forward received another prestigious honor - the 2008 NJCAA David Rowlands award, an accolade given to one junior college student-athlete each year who displays hard work, discipline, ethics and excellence in JUCO athletics. Since its inception in 1993, the award has only been given to a junior college basketball player six times, one being current Miami Heat star Shawn Marion when he played at Vincennes University in Indiana.

It was for good reason that No. 22 received both honors – he has that much going for him, on and off the court. Enough talent and character that high-profile schools such as Wisconsin, Oklahoma State and Tennessee inquired about his services. Talent and character Minnesota coach Tubby Smith couldn’t overlook when he and the Gopher coaching staff saw Bostick teaming with Paul Carter in Jerry Mullen’s 120 Elite Camp in Tulsa, Oklahoma last summer.

Smith was convinced the former Wisconsin prep star, who led his high school team – Racine St. Catherine’s – to back-to-back state championships, could be a big factor in quickly rebuilding Minnesota’s basketball tradition. After hearing Smith’s recruiting pitch and the noticing the Gophers’ style of play – up-tempo offense mixed in with full-court pressure defense – was nearly identical to how SICC played, Bostick committed to the “U” last October.

What a difference a year makes.

Last year at this time Bostick was preparing for a breakout JUCO season while sharing a bedroom with a teammate at an off-campus apartment complex. To get to class on time he carpooled to campus in the morning with one of his three other roommates. One year later Bostick now enjoys the comfort of having his own on-campus room while sharing a suite at Roy Wilkins with senior Jon Williams, and has his mind on getting the Gophers back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005.

A true small forward who can also play shooting guard, Bostick’s strengths are posting up defenders and slashing to the basket - skills that were on display when he teamed with Damian Johnson and Kevin Payton at the Howard Pulley Summer League and abilities that should compliment Minnesota’s perimeter shooters quite nicely.

Bostick isn’t a shooting slouch himself either. Experts believe he has enough range to help the Gophers shoulder the loss of Minnesota’s go-to perimeter threat last season, Lawrence McKenzie. More exciting to Gold Country should be the fact that Bostick himself expects to be a major factor this season.

“I expect to make a big impact,” he said. I expect to help out the team (and) try to get us to the tournament.”

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Hey thanks for keeping us up on the goings on w/Tubby and the team. Twins done, Vikings struggling, Gopher hockey an unknown, am looking forward to seeing what this team can do.

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Tubby's tip off is Friday, the official start to Gopher basketball practices starting.

"Friday, October 17th will mark the first official practice of the 2008-09 season for your Golden Gopher Men’s Basketball team. The event is open to the public and admission is free. Doors will open at 8:30pm and the lights-out introductions will begin just after 9pm. Come out to Williams Arena and get your first look at the Gophers during the 3point contest, dunk contest and Intrasquad scrimmage!"

A free look at some of this year's talent. Should be another fun year and another team on the bubble...but you're thankful they are on the bubble as they are super young and full of potential!

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A week from tonight is the first night of exhibition ball. I don't think I'll be getting season tix this year...too many expenses have popped up and I'll probably be fishing during some of the games. But I will be popping into the Big Ten Network for some games and buying tickets for a few others. Sounds like Tubby's tip off went well. Shamala led scorers in the scrimmage, Bostick won the dunk contest, and Westbrook beat Hoffarber in the 3 point contest final.

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Gophers also inked Trevor Mbakwe to a letter of intent, in addition to Cobbs, White, and Williams.

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Gophers set team record with 17 blocks. Freshman Colton Iverson settles into the school record books with 9 rejections, tied for third best ever.

Minnesota improves to 2-0 and plays Georgia State tomorrow.

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3-0 with the win. Westbrook named tournament MVP, Nolen and Westbrook on the All-NABC Classic team...Gotta get Damian Johnson and Jon Williams back. Hard to start two true freshman at your 4 and 5, but they are learning the hard way I guess. Given those injuries, maybe that creampuff schedule was the way to go after all.

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Well, I had a family gathering so I missed the game from Fort Collins. Sounds like I missed a doozy!

*********************************************

Johnson, defense carry U past Rams for 4-0 start

By TONY PHIFER

November 23, 2008

FORT COLLINS, COLO. — With their outside game struggling and their inside game missing in action, the Gophers men's basketball team discovered Saturday night it can still win with an old reliable: defense.

The Gophers used stifling all-court pressure to force 20 turnovers and got a clutch layup from Paul Carter with 18.9 seconds left to pull out a 72-71 victory over Colorado State before an announced crowd of 5,956 at Moby Arena.

Colorado State had a chance to steal a win when Andre McFarland launched an 18-foot jumper from the left baseline as the final horn sounded. The shot was just short, giving the Gophers their first 4-0 start since the 2002-03 season.

"They got a very good look at the end; somebody blew an assignment," Gophers coach Tubby Smith said. "But this was a good win for us."

His team simply refused to allow Colorado State's significant inside advantage to rule the night. They outrebounded the Rams (2-1) 25-17 in the second half and grabbed 19 offensive boards.

"They were really pounding us inside, but we ran down just about every loose ball," Smith said. "We had to play small but we are quick, and that made a difference."

The Gophers got a huge performance from junior forward Damian Johnson, making his season debut after missing the first three games because of a broken left hand. It was his interior pass to Carter that set up the winning basket, and he added a block on Rams guard Marcus Walker's 15-footer in the final seconds. Johnson finished with six points, five rebounds, five assists and three blocks.

"It was a big lift for us to get him back," Smith said.

The Gophers also got a break when Walker, the Rams' standout senior guard, was injured Friday in an auto-pedestrian accident when he was walking near campus. Walker, who was coming off a 31-point performance Tuesday against Northern Colorado, played with his right (shooting) shoulder in a harness and shot 2-for-11 from the field.

With Walker hurting, the Gophers managed to find just enough offense from their backcourt to win. Blake Hoffarber did the damage in the first half, scoring 17 of his game-high 20 points -- one shy of his career best last year, which also came against Colorado State. In the second half, it was sophomore Al Nolen talking over with 13 of his 16 points.

"We got contributions from a lot of people, which is what you need in a game like this," Smith said. "Al hit some huge baskets for us in the second half. Blake had his shooting eye tonight, and I'm glad he did."

*****************************************

Sounds like they were down 8-10 a few times, but they never gave up. Played a lot of small ball. It helps that CSU's leading scorer was in an accident Friday, but with the injuries the Gophs have had to Williams and DJ they'll take it. Johnson is back to his old self: stuffing stat sheets. Love to see Hoff find his touch again, and what a difference Sophomore Al is against Freshman Al. Should be a valuable learning experience for the twin frosh bigs. Gotta play smart...lots of teams are going to go right at those two and try to get them in foul trouble. Still, have to love the team effort, all the loose balls and offensive boards (hustle stats), the total rebounding and defensive effort. A game like this under Monson was a blowout, last night under Tubby it's a win. Losing a game like that hurts your confidence and makes the tournament tough to get into. Gotta scratch out some wins against these lower tier teams while you build your confidence and improve...lots of new face to work in.

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Gophs cruise to 6-0 with the win against NDSU yesterday and Eastern Washington on Wednesday.

Versus the Bison, Shamala goes for 20, tallying the team's first 7 points. It's nice to have Damian Johnson back, as he puts up 11 points, 6 assists, 4 steals, and 3 blocks. Quite the morphing player, he's capable of nearly every position on the floor.

Against Eastern Washington, five players scored in double digits and the game was never in doubt.

The gophers will finally play a real team on Tuesday, as Virginia comes to town for the Big Ten/ACC Classic. Then it's two more cupcakes in Cornell and South Dakota State. #3 Louisville will be the real test, can the Gophers stay in the game?

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If you're not watching the Gophs, it's only halftime and they are up 3 on Virginia. Thought they were going to blow them out of the building for a couple minutes there, but they let them back in. Still figuring the game out.

The defense is looking fantastic, and it's nice to actually see some athletes in maroon and gold. Bostick with a nice alley up finish.

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Gophers win 66-56. POG to Colton Iverson. That kid is amazing. He finished with like 14 and 7, and he missed one that he'll make when he gets more experience, and he had some poor lob passes that didn't work out. Great Big Ten Body. If Sampson III plays like Iverson, we could be talking about a heck of a tandem inside. The steady play of Al Nolen and Damian Johnson pace the win. I wasn't too impressed with what looked like a lackluster performance by Virginia. Their McDonald's All American freshman Landesberg, a potential ACC ROY, went like 1-11. Minny might not get much RPI help from this win.

7-0 for the first time this decade. Should be 9-0 by the time they meet up with Louisville. Then it will be time to see how far they've come.

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