New men's basketball coach Richard Pitino will be writing Gopher fans periodic blog entries on GopherSports.com.
1. What has been your biggest surprise since you have taken the job?
Answer: The fan support has been by far the biggest surprise. What makes the University of Minnesota so special is we are the only Division I school in the entire state. That is extremely unique in a state comprised of 5.3 million people, and that is what makes this job so special. Everywhere I have worked, there have been divided fan bases. The majority of this state grows up dreaming of going to the University of Minnesota.
2. Can you play fast in the Big Ten?
Answer: You can play fast in any conference. You can play slow in any conference. The key to playing the style that we would like to play starts and ends with the type of players that we bring in. We will not succeed at playing that style if we don't get the right fit. Several great coaches throughout the country play the style they believe in to be right. None of these styles are particularly right or wrong. They only become ineffective if you don't have the right personnel to do it. We hope to be one of the best conditioned teams in the country.
3. What is the best piece of advice your father or Billy
Donovan has given you?
Answer: It would be impossible to pinpoint one piece of wisdom each guy has given me. Between the two of them they have won 4 national titles, been to 10 Final Fours and won over a thousand games. My father will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this fall and Coach Donovan will certainly be there in the not so distant future. Both guys do things very differently, but strive to the reach the same common goal. I learned so much from them in my 5 years as an assistant and know they will continue to teach me in the future.
Personnel Update (After 4 practices)
Austin Hollins: Has had 4 very solid practices. Has a great demeanor on the court. Very quick release with good size. I love his business-like approach on the court and in the classroom. We are going to rely on him a lot.
Maverick Ahanmisi: Turned out his best practice last week. Showed toughess that I didn't know he had. Has the ability to make shots and play
multiple positions for us. He has the
potential to be our leader.
Malik Smith: Is playing arguably the best basketball on the team right now. The reason is he has the luxury of playing for me for a year. He is very comfortable in the system and has used it to his advantage. He truly believes every shot he takes will go in. He has also been a great leader.
Coach Pitino says FIU transfer Malik Smith is playing "arguably the best basketball on the team right now."
Elliott Eliason: Also had a very good practice last week. Still needs to add some muscle in order to be more physical. His greatest attribute is his running. He doesn't know how good he can be.
Maurice Walker: It has been well documented that Mo has lost 45 pounds. He deserves all the credit for that. He has worked extremely hard to lose the weight. Although Mo has lost a lot of weight, he is still not in great shape. When he isn't tired he becomes very effective. He is the best passer on the team by far. Needs to be more aggressive when he catches the ball on the low block.
Andre Hollins: Looked like an all conference player last practice. Didn't expect him to make the USA team because he had been studying abroad for a month. Andre is the epitome of a student athlete. Would love for him to be a more vocal leader. I fully expect him to have a great year.
Oto Osenieks: Has been solid over 4 practices. He has been playing mostly the 4 spot for us. It has given him the opportunity to shoot the three off of pick and pops. Would like for him to be more aggressive and physical on the glass.
Wally Ellenson: Had great success in the spring with the track team. It's very impressive for him to be able to become a high jump All-American with a limited amount of practice. On the court he reminds me of a kid I coached at Louisville named Kyle Kuric. Wally is a very good athlete in the open floor and has shown the ability to offensive rebound. He has to continue to develop his three-point shot.
Drake transfer Joey King filed for an NCAA waiver to be eligible for this upcoming season.
Joey King: Love his toughness. He truly believes he is the best player on the court. Confidence like that is extremely valuable. He raises the level of intensity for everyone in practice. His intensity is infectious. He, as well as Malik, both filed for NCAA waivers to be eligible this season.
Kendal Shell: Injured himself before last practice. Highest body fat on the team! To his credit he has lost a lot of weight. Will have a better feel for his game when he gets in shape. Great attitude and great kid.
Daquein McNeil: Day-Day, as we call him, has been the most pleasant surprise so far. Most freshman are tentative when they first come in but that has not been the case with him. Biggest room for improvement with him is his three-point shot.
Charles Buggs: Has a long way to go, but probably has the most potential to grow of anyone on the team. He will be very effective when we put in the press because of his length and athleticism.
Deandre Mathieu: Still in summer school at home. Really looking forward to working with him in the fall. Has great speed and quickness. Is a pass first point guard.
My staff is taking our newest T-Wolves addition to dinner tonight. Hopefully Gorgui brings that new bonus check for when the bill comes around!
Thanks again to Kris Humphries and Larry Fitzgerald for stopping by last week. We will have another practice this afternoon, then its off to July recruiting to hopefully find the next great Gopher!