With the departure of Devoe Joseph the Gophers have at least one scholarship available to use for the 2011 class. So who do we have, what do we need and who are we pursuing? Let's take a look.
Committed to 2011 - this part isn't anything new but just a quick recap of the current Gopher class
Joe Coleman - (6-3, 185) SG from Hopkins and brother of former Gopher, Dan Coleman. Like his elder brother, Joe is rather athletic. But those who have seen him and wrote about him say he is much more aggressive and loves getting to the rim in traffic.
"Coleman is an explosive athlete who shows no fear taking the ball to the hoop. He makes electrifying plays around the basket and is not afraid to attempt to dunk on anyone."
"Coleman is an excellent rebounder for a perimeter player and is a solid defender on the ball and in the team concept."
He needs to work on his range as he is not a great shooter outside of 18 feet but I expect he'll earn plenty of early playing time coming off the bench for Hollins assuming he is ready to contribute defensively.
Andre Hollins - (6-2, 190) Plays for a great Memphis program that is currently trying to defend their big class 2010 state title. As a junior he played SG, partially because their team sported a five-star, blue chip PG. Now Hollins is playing PG and preparing for life as a Big Ten point.
He is a blue-collar guy at the SG position who laces them up tight every time he steps between the lines. He has good range on his jump shot out to 24', but his game is attacking the rim off the dribble. When he sees an opening he attacks like he is shot out of cannon. Defensively, he really sets down in his stance and moves his feet well.
I'm looking forward to his toughness and basketball IQ that he'll be bringing. There is still a question however if he's going to be the answer at point. Scoring isn't a question though as he is averaging over 25 ppg on a squad currently in the Tennessee playoffs having accumulated 26 wins. He may come in next year as our best backcourt player from day 1.
So with those two guys here is what your 2011-12 roster currently looks like. With the unexpected departure of Joseph we have 12 scholarship players which opens up an additional scholarship to be used now.
|SR||Ralph Sampson III||C||X|
So the next obvious question is what position do we use this open scholarship on? If you believe that Andre Hollins is the answer at point then you can ignore that position but I may lean towards landing a JUCO point as our top priority. The loss of Al Nolen this year has really shown that we currently have very little reliable options at point. Maybe Andre is the answer and Maverick will be a solid backup in his second year. So maybe PG is OK or maybe we need a JUCO point who can help solidify the position. If Andre comes in and solidifies himself as the best option that is awesome. Then we'll have a JR transfer who can give us some experience backing him up and Hollins can move over to a scoring guard for stretches.
The next obvious deficiency we are currently seeing that will only get worse is the lack of a shooting guard. It doesn't appear as though we have a reliable shooter on the roster. Austin has been OK from outside and one can expect with some experience and confidence he'll be solid next year from the outside. But after that we have some really ugly shooting percentages from the arc and we could really use a shooter. Rodney has improved his percentage and it is now "UP" to 20.6% and Chip is at 22.7%. Those two need to spend every day of the offseason putting up 500 shots, maybe they need to give Eric Harris a call to learn how to go from a horrid shooter to reliable. The one wild card might be Oto Osenieks who just might be a very nice shooting forward.
Speaking of Oto, the third possible use of this last scholarship is on a PF to spell Mbakwe and not force us to play two slow-footed centers at the same time. None of us know if Oto is capable of being that person next year, but landing an eventual replacement for "In-N-Out" might not be a bad use of the final scholarship. For all of the talk that Tubby cannot produce NBA players, he should be able to convince a top notch, high school PF in 2012 that he needs someone to replace the production of Trevor Mbakwe. So if this position gets ignored this spring, it will have to be addressed in 2012 along with SG.
Pursuing - with all of that said, who are the Gopher pursuing? According to stories from Ryan James at GopherIllustrated and various other internet sources, here is who we are currently pursuing to some degree.
We are hitting the JUCO ranks for a point guard and if I had any say in the matter this is the route we would go for next season. I am very nervous about our point guard depth and overall talent at that position. Below are a handful of kids we are looking at in order of who I'd like to see Tubby and Co. land as a Golden Gopher.
Julian Welch has reportedly been offered an actual scholarship which means he is in the driver's seat to nab the open scholly from Joseph's transfer. The JUCO spent his freshman season at UC Davis where he was the Big West Conference freshman of the year. As a freshman he shot 35% from behind the arc making 27 on the year. Currently that is more than all three of our current freshman who have combined to make 26 on the year and 35% would rank second on the team behind Blake. His JUCO numbers are hard to find but based on his freshman numbers at UC-Davis he would possibly add some shooting ability to this roster.
He is likely more of a scoring guard than a true point, but we need both and he has some experience. He is visiting in early March and I would not be surprised if Welch commits soon over an offer from UNLV and interest from Cal.
Chris Colvin is a 6-3 point guard who spent his freshman season at Iowa State. After the coaching change he decided to spend his sophomore year in the JUCO ranks. This year for Palm Beach State College he has been an integral part of their 23-4 record. In their most recent win over Miami-Dade Colvin scored 30. He was action in 29 games at Iowa State as a true freshman.
Darius Smith is also a JUCO point guard who the Gophers recruited out of high school. Smith ended up at UConn for his freshman season and then is spending this season playing for the College of Southern Idaho. Coming out of high school Minnesota spent time recruiting Smith and he was then known as a lock down defender with quick reflexes. His ESPN eval coming out of high school had this to say.
Smith personifies a true ballhawk. He has unbelievably quick hands and reactions and specializes in stripping opponents on the dribble or with the ball in their hands. He has long arms and is a fierce competitor.
He is currently averaging just 8.7 points per game but nearly 5.5 assists and 3 steals per game. He is leading a ranked JUCO program that has plenty of very good talent on it. He isn't going to answer our scoring issues but he might fill Nolen's shoes as a defensive point quite nicely. I like the idea of Smith.
Martyre Demarco is a newer name on the horizon. Demarco is a 6-2 Arizona native playing ball in California. He is not overly quick but he shoots well from the point and would be a nice combo guard.
Henry Brooks would be that PF depth should we choose to not go the guard route. The 6-8 forward from Georgia was set to visit during the Illinois game but is now scheduled to come next weekend. He considering Minnesota amongst offers from Maryland, Georgetown, Northwestern, Virginia Tech, Xavier, Harvard and others. Notice the inclusion of Harvard and Northwestern, we've got a smart one here folks. Brooks also starts for a team looking to three-peat as Georgia Class AAAA state champs. He appears to be more of an athletic forward than a big forward who could score with his back to the basket. Intriguing prospect for sure.
That is all that I know. It seems pretty clear that Welch is the frontrunner for the last scholarship which would give this team three incoming guards who can score. Hollins and Welch will likely have some range while Coleman (and Hollins) should bring some athleticism that can get to the rim. It comes as no surprise to anyone who has seen this team play that we are severely lacking in scoring options in the backcourt. Frontcourt depth is abundant but we need some scoring guards ASAP.