Did this year meet expectations? That is the most commonly asked question that I have received since our NIT championship. The answer would be 100 percent yes. As a coach your hope is that your guys compete and get better every day. I can honestly say 99 percent of our practices and individual instruction sessions were a success. The guys brought it every day and that's all you can ask.
To go along with individual improvements, this team went on to set a school record for total number of wins in a season as well as an NIT championship. Other statistical records we set included the most points, 3-pointers and free throws in single-season school history, as well as the second-best free throw percentage and third-most rebounds and steals.
We were also very excited to have the highest team GPA in the fall semester in the last 10 years. It's very important that our guys finish strong academically. Austin, Maverick, Oto and Kendal will all graduate on time. Malik still has a little work to do but he will get his degree. Kendall will be back and Oto will be a graduate manager for us next season. Malik, Mav, and Austin will all try to play professionally.
Here are some (unofficial) year-end awards.
MVP- Deandre Mathieu
Nobody was more consistent from top to bottom than Dre. Incredible where he has come from to get to where he is now. He certainly deserves all the credit. He will also have to stay hungry because he will have a bigger reputation next season.
Most Improved- Mo Walker, Joey King (close second)
This wasn't an easy choice but to look at where Mo was last year to today is pretty impressive. He did an unbelievable job of losing the weight; now it's time to add the muscle. I am fully confident he and our strength coach Shaun Brown will get it done.
Best Defender- Austin Hollins
Hardest Worker- Austin Hollins ... easy pick.
Best Attitude- Maverick Ahanmisi
Sacrifice Award- Oto Osenieks
What Oto did vs. Florida State in the NIT is what being a teammate is all about. He played through a lot of pain in that game and grabbed a huge rebound at the end.
Best Moment- Austin Hollins 3-pointer vs. SMU in the NIT Championship
That's the way a senior like Austin should end his career. Great player, better person. We will miss his intangibles.
Next year will be met with much higher expectations certainly than this year. Our guys will have to be prepared to be the hunted instead of the hunter. That won't be easy. We will need the Barn to be the toughest place to play in the country! As crazy as it sounds next year's schedule will be more difficult than this year's top ten strength of schedule. We will have to be ready to compete every night!
I personally had a blast coaching this year. My favorite moment is walking up those stairs at the beginning of the game at the Barn to take the court. It gives me goosebumps every time. I can't wait to do it again in a few months!
Hope to see everyone at June for camp. It will be fun! (For more information on the Richard Pitino Basketball Camps, visit http://www.gophersports.com/sports/m-baskbl/spec-rel/pitino-camps.html)