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Gopher hoops open practice before their summer trip to Italy

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Gopher practice was open to the media, here are some thoughts

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Gopher hoops is heading to Italy for a summer trip, allowed by the NCAA once every four years. While in Europe they will play games and therefor are allowed to practice in the summer months leading up to the trip. Thurday’s practice was open to the media.

After getting the opportunity to watch exactly ONE practice there are a handful of observations made. I emphasize that because as we all know, player performance can vary from game to game. Well practice to practice is even more variable and I was able to sit in the gopher practice facility to watch just one practice.

But with several new faces on the team, this was so incredibly valuable to witness. So many freshmen and transfers whom we’ve never seen play. We really have no idea what to expect from anybody on the floor. We have an idea of what to expect from the few returners, but even their performances may greatly vary without the likes of Jordan Murphy and Amir Coffey on the floor to command defensive attention.

So next is just a stream of my random observations and mostly opinion of what one can glean from one practice.

Two Prevailing Thoughts

After watching practice, I came away with two prevailing thoughts.

1 - This is Marcus Carr’s team

You ready for this? This is Marcus Carr’s basketball team. From what I observed, he is the leader on the floor. He is going to be great a running the point. He is very good at getting to the rim, getting guys set offensively and he’s a good shooter. Not sure if I’m ready to declare he’ll be the leading scorer, but this is going to be his team.

And his game, particularly coming off an Oturu pick-n-roll, is so well suited for this team. I’m not sure they’ve got it all figured out yet, but Carr, Oturu and Kalscheur compliment each other so perfectly. Carr coming of a high screen, and athletic Oturu rolling to the basket and Kalscheur stretching the defense with his shooting ability...it could really be awesome.

2 - I was really impressed with Isaiah Ihnen

I personally thought that Ihnen was going to be so raw that he would contribute almost nothing as a freshman. Turns out, he is raw. But he also really talented. It will be really interesting to see what happens with him when we get to the regular season. But I wouldn’t at all be surprised if he starts...or if he is the 4th guy off the bench. I’m leaning heavily towards the former.

Watching him in early shooting drills, he would make 4 of 5 threes, looking very smooth and easy. Then he would shoot a couple absolute bricks that looked like he has no business shooting outside of a dunk. Oh, and he had many thunderous dunks. During sprints he was by far the fastest on the team and looked like Usain Bolt with long strides that looked so smooth as the blew past everyone.

But what sold me was once the team began scrimmaging (with Ihnen initially running with Carr, Kalscheur, Oturu and Hurt) he flashed down the middle, wide open but was not seen. He sets up in the corner, where he is found and buries the three. On the defensive end he steals the pass. And then on offense has a very minor injury and is held out for what I assume were precautionary reasons. But he made an impact immediately.

Again, I have been very “bah-humbug” on Ihnen since his signing. Today, I was impressed. He may be an impactful player in year one.

The Rest of the Guys

Gabe Kalscheur

Pretty much exactly what was expected. Kalscheur looked great shooting the ball and moving in the offense. As just stated, it’ll be most interesting to see how he gets his shots without Coffey and Murphy on the floor being the focal points of the offense.

Daniel Oturu

Looked more fluid moving beyond just posting up. He’ll be a beast. Not much to say really, his movement was more fluid and he looked far more confident.

Eric Curry

Was held out of the scrimmage and really just did shooting and big man drills. His upper body looks big. But hard to tell what to expect from the big man.

Michael Hurt

Really looked very much the same on the floor. He is clearly a leader on this team and plays with confidence, but looked very much like what we have come to know on the floor,

Jarvis Omersa

Just like we saw a year ago. Omersa is high energy, athletic and fun. Didn’t appear to have really improved skills wise, but certainly an athletic force on the court who is getting better.

The Transfers

Peyton Willis

Ran with the maroon team and guarded Kalscheur the entire time. I was kind of hoping to get to see Tre Williams guarding Kalscheur but Willis was on him almost the entire time.

Alihan Demir

Looked very smooth and “crafty” on the offensive end, especially around the basket. In shooting drills I saw him make 8 threes in a row. Today, I’d be surprised if he is a starter. But after this trip and fall practices, he may work his way into the starting lineup.

The Freshmen

Tre Williams

He looks very talented. Smooth. Good shooter, aggressive to the rim and at no point did he look like a freshman. I think that once things slow down for him a little bit, he can really make an impact as a freshman.

Sam Freeman

Big and strong kid. His upper body is really big. Often looked lost offensively and really not much of a shooter. On a couple possessions he would rip down a rebound in a crowd, this is what he brings to the table currently. If he has to play, he’ll be a big strong body who will rebound and dunk. If he gets the opportunity to redshirt, that would be great.

Bryan Greenlee

Another guy I wasn’t really expecting much out of but came away impressed. If Greenlee has to play several minutes at point, I have complete confidence that he can handle it. Smooth stroke, he’ll make threes if he’s open. Not going to be much of a creater offensively early in his career. But he is very strong, can really defend and run the point. He and Carr will really make each other better as the battle every day in practice. I expect Greenlee will contribute as a backup point this year.

Safe travels to the team and hopefully this collection of newcomers continues to come together. Any team that loses their two best players, who were the caliber of Murphy and Coffey, is going to be a huge question mark heading into the next season. This team is going to look completely different but I’m very excited to see this team in November.