I thought I'd give a quick rundown on my evaluation of our young Gopher Hoops squad after a rather lackluster performance against Augustana in the final exhibition before they start playing for real. And lacking in luster it was. The Gophers looked confused and almost completely without an offense in the first half. While Augastana did what teams like this seem always to do -- move people and the ball around until they find an open look -- we did what we seem always to do -- swing the ball around the perimeter until forced to put up a jumper in desparation. In the first half, it was ugly.
But let me talk about the guys instead. A word of warning, all of this is based on my impressions of watching the game in person. I did not see the first game.
I'll start with the bad and end with the good, but they are in no particular order in between.
Ralph Sampson III - I won't sugar coat it. Ralphie was terrible. It's no exaggeration to say that it's hard to imagine how he could have been worse. He got pushed around by guys who were a lot smaller than him, again. Not only did he not score, he seemed to turn it over nearly every time he got the ball on the block (the box score says 7 turnovers, but it felt like even more). Most disappointing to me is that he didn't seem to figure out that they were collapsing on him and Augastana's guards were going to get their hands on the ball if he brought it down below his shoulders. The only upside for Ralph was two blocked shots, but given his size advantage, that isn't much. By now we know it's a head thing for Ralph, and in this game, his head wasn't there.
Rodney Williams - At this point, I'm calling it on Rodney. He's not the guy who was a preseason projected lottery pick last year. He's Rodney, and that's all we're going to get from him. He plays decent defense, has a ton of athleticism, and will make the occasional highlight play, but he is never going to be able to hit jumpers or regularly create his own shot. The reports were that he reworked his shooting form at Lebron James's camp this summer, and he did look smoother both on his jumper and at the stripe. But looks aside, he was four of nine on free throws. I think that pretty much sums him up.
Elliot Eliason - I saw him play in the exhibition games up in Canada last year and thought he had some skills but needed to develop his body before he could contribute. Now his body looks more developed, but I didn't really see the skills I thought were there. Based on last night, I think he's still a medium to long term project and he may need another year of maturity to develop the coordination to be able to contribute.
Maverick Ahanmisi - There was nothing in last night's game to change my view that Mav is unlikely to finish his career with the Gophers. He's got some skills, but to me they are better suited to playing somewhere less competitive than the B1G, and I don't think he's going to be a big part of the rotation this year.
Chip Armelin - Chip was the only offensive spark in the first half. He was the last veteran to get into the game, but when he did, he hit a few jumpers, made a few plays and got the offense moving. Of course, he also played lackluster defense. To me, he was more under control that last year and looks more comfortable shooting the three, but was largely the same guy. Contrary to the guy sitting next to me, who declared when Chip was on the floor that we were watching this year's starting five, I think he has a role as instant offense off the bench, but I don't think he will see big minutes this year.
Joe Coleman - It's hard to have much to say. He was there. He played. He didn't make any major noticeable mistakes, nor any major noticeable good plays. I think he will see limited minutes this year, and I'm not sure he has the body to ever be a real player in the B1G, but it's way too early to have much of a view.
Andre Ingram - Speaking of body, he has the build of a guy who is a player. He also showed a little athleticism, got a couple of boards and if memory serves, a nice tip in. I think he'll be fine as a guy who can spell Trevor for some brief rest and get a few minutes as a back up at the 3 position as well. Based on the little I've seen so far, I'm not expecting much else from him this year.
Oto Osenieks - The best news for him from this game is that they got the right accent mark on his name on the back of his jersey (or I assume it's right anyway). Otherwise, he was one of two from three point range, but didn't look as smooth shooting it as I would have hoped. I liked his energy and his alertness on defense, but I need to see more before I decide if he can play.
Chris Halvorsen - He played. That's not something we are going to say too often.
Andre Hollins - Andre got the start at point, and my guess is that is going to be the case more often than not. I was excited to see him after reading reports of the first game (which I did not see), but this effort wasn't particularly impressive. He seemed to play decent defense, and looked reasonably comfortable for a true freshman. He handled the ball well and didn't turn it over. I think he will develop into a very nice player for this team. He didn't particularly do anything outstanding yesterday, but like Al Nolan, I think his role is going to be setting the table and playing D.
Julian Welch - I was of two minds on young Mr. Welch. In the first half, my thought was that maybe he isn't really B1G materials, but I can't say exactly why. In the second half, I started to get a little excited about him. In terms of offense, he had a better game than Andre, and made a case for himself as the starting point. But I particularly liked his muscular defense and his build had me thinking thoughts of a Mateen Cleaves-style guard who can use his strength to contribute on both ends of the floor. By the end, I believed that this kid can be a player.
Austin Hollins - It's hard not to like Austin. He looked improved from last year, and if he can keep improving on this pace, he might well be legitimately great as a senior. Last night he played tough defense and was only guy who seemed to be able to stay with lighting-quick Drae Murray. He also looked more comfortable shooting the ball than last year and knocked down a couple of threes in the second half. Perimeter shooting is still a question mark for this team, and Hollins hitting the open jumper is absolutely key this season. To my eyes, Hollins has put himself in position to be the starting shooting guard all year.
Trevor Mbakwe - He's a beast and showed it again last night. The surprise was that he now seems to be a beast who can make his free throws. That's huge for a guys whose game will put him on the line frequently. Trevor seems poised to make a case for being the best big man in the B1G, and he's clearly our best player.