In the spirit of the MLB All Star Game, I decided to throw our guys a curveball last night.
I surprised our players and staff by telling them we would practice this morning at 6 a.m., for just under an hour. The news was met with great enthusiasm. It was a good way to break up the monotony of individual instruction and get them to play together a bit. I did my best to stay away from them this summer; I am sure my staff won a lot of friendly bets around the office about how soon I would have practice.
My main message before practice was that we won a title last
year. It was a championship that we are all proud of - it was difficult
to win and we learned a lot about ourselves in the process. With that
being said, it's time to take the next step as a team and a basketball program.
My expectations for them this season will be MUCH higher.
We started practice with a lot of defense. This was a good opportunity to teach the new guys our defensive principles and philosophies. As expected the incoming players have a long way to go.
There is no doubt in my mind they will get there. To finish practice I put in two plays and let them scrimmage a bit. We definitely look quicker and much more athletic than last year's team.
Below are some first impressions of each player...
Zach Lofton - impressed me with his playmaking ability. He has outstanding potential.
Coach Pitino says Andre Hollins is healthy and poised for a breakout year.
Andre Hollins - Came back healthy and in great shape. Breakout year coming.
Elliott Eliason - Body looks great, finished everything today.
Mo Walker - Had some big time moves in the paint. Would love to see him still get stronger and quicker.
DeAndre Mathieu- still recovering from Day Day beating him in one-on-one last week. Hopefully he will get over it by November 14th.
Josh Martin- Rodney Williams-esque athlete. Still has to learn how to play. Very excited about his potential.
Carlos "Squirrel" Morris- Has put on 15 pounds and has about 15 more to go. Long arms. Could be a great defender.
Daquein "Day Day" McNeil- I told him yesterday to come to practice a confident player. He walked in this morning with a gold jersey on. Traditionally, in practice maroon is the first team and gold is the second team. Everyone should walk into the first day of practice with a maroon jersey on! He has a chance to make a big jump from last year.
Joey King- Typical Joey. Efficient offensively and a great understanding of how to play. You win with guys like Joey. He has put on 15 pounds of muscle.
Nate Mason- Really impressed me defensively. Has very quick feet.
Charles Buggs- did not play, rehabbing after knee surgery. Looked like he was preparing for the Tour de France all practice.
Bakary Konate and Gaston Diedhiou- will be here when school starts in September.
Coach Saunders and his staff were kind enough to invite me to the Timberwolves summer league practice Monday evening. His staff does an unbelievable job. I was blown away by Zach LaVine. He has a chance to be special! I was also extremely impressed with how hard Shabazz Muhammed played. He is a warrior. Gorgui Dieng looked great as well. Obviously I am biased when it comes to Gorgui.
My staff and I will be on the road from Wednesday to Sunday starting this week for the next three weeks. I will be in Washington D.C., Chicago and Springfield this week. Should be fun. The season is right around the corner. Can't wait!
An All-Star Game selection highlights this week's roundup.
*Glen Perkins was selected to his second consecutive All-Star Game. The Twins closer will be a reserve for the American League team. Read more here.
*Nate Hanson notched a pair of three-hit games for the Rochester Red Wings last week. He went 3-for-4 with a three runs, a double and two RBIs on July 1. Hanson hit 3-for-7 with a run and a double on July 5. He is now hitting .286 in his seven games at the Triple-A level this summer.
*Mike Kvasnicka (New Britain) hit 7-for-21 during the past week and is hitting .344 in his last 10 games. Those hits included a double and a home run last week.
*Tom Windle got the win with a six-inning, one-run start on July 2. He is 8-4 with a 3.72 ERA for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (Class A Advanced) this season.
*DJ Snelten has maintained a low ERA all season for the Class A Augusta GreeenJackets. After 2 1/3 scoreless relief innings last week, the number is 1.23. Snelten has struck out 32 batters in 29 1/3 innings.
*Alec Crawford has yet to allow an earned run for the Grand Junction Rockies (Rookie). He made two relief appearances last week and has pitched eight innings since joining the roster.
*Connor Schaefbauer hit .375 (9-for-24) last week to raise his season average to .308 for Rochester. He had three consecutive two-hit games.
*Dan Motl hit 3-for-5 with a run on July 4, and 6-for-14 on the week for Willmar.
*Dalton Sawyer made two scoreless relief appearances for St. Cloud last week.
*Fred Manke was named Wisconsin State Journal Area Player of the Year. He also pitched recently for the South All-Stars in the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association Classic. Manke was also named the WBCAC South Central District Player of the Year while earning first-team all-state recognition and his fourth All-Capitol North Conference nod. This past season, he had a 7-1 record and 1.01 ERA with 101 strikeouts, also batting .488.
*Through July 2, Alex Boxwell was leading his Coon Rapids Legion team with a .483 average.
*Reggie Meyer is 4-0 for the Totino Grace Legion team.
*Luke Pettersen's Legion team won the Palmetto Legion Invitational Tournament in South Carolina June 27-29.
So far, my summer has been pleasant. I have kept myself busy but have also factored in time to relax with my friends and family! I have spent most of my time working out for softball, interning in the office of Student-Athlete Development on campus, and coaching my sister's softball team.
On a typical day, I wake up and go lift weights with some of my teammates at Ridder Arena. Our weights coach, Sara Wiley, has set up a lifting program designed to kick our butts and make us stronger before we return to school in the fall! After lifting, we usually head over to our field to hit off tees in the batting cages.
The next portion of my day is spent at Bierman Field Athletic Building where I am an intern in the office of Student-Athlete Development. As an intern, my main job is planning the 2014 HopeDay Festival. On HopeDay, about 500 of our student-athletes volunteer to put on a carnival for the HopeKids and their families. Here, the kids can play kickball, get their faces painted, go on pony rides and participate in many other fun activities. Each year, about 1,500 members of the HopeKids organization attend the event. HopeKids is an organization that provides fun activities and events free of charge to families who have children with cancer or other life-threatening illnesses. HopeDay is just one of the many volunteering events our student-athletes attend throughout the year.
Another part of my job as an intern is volunteering at the various outreach events that we offer. I volunteered at the "M" Club golf outing for former student-athletes. I worked a chipping contest on one of the holes and got to hang out with some softball alums, including Danielle Skrove and Briana Hassett (pictured left). I also got to play in the Playworks Kickball Tournament with other Gopher athletes, including my teammate Hannah Granger (pictured above). Our team ended up winning the whole tournament and former Gopher kicker Chris Hawthorne won the contest for longest kick. Volunteering at these events has been a very rewarding experience.Finally, in the evenings, I spend my time coaching my sister's softball team. She plays for the 18U Mounds View Mustangs. Throughout the summer, our team will play about 20 league games and compete in four tournaments. In our last tournament, we played two games against my future teammate, Kylie Stober. Watching her pitch made me excited that she is going to become a Gopher. The rest of my time is spent hanging out with my friends and family on the lake and playing fetch with my puppy. As I write, she is begging me to go outside with her, and I can't resist any longer. I am off to play! I hope you all are enjoying your summer as much as I am!
Brady Skjei at the 2014 Hockey City Classic at TCF Bank Stadium.
Good morning Gopher Fans,
Hope everyone is having a great summer like we are. Personally it has been a lot of fun welcoming my two-month-old Jack into this world. Jill, Ava, Bernie and I are extremely fortunate and lucky.
This summer has been much different than last year.
The culture has been introduced and expectations for how to operate on a
daily basis have been laid out. That is always the toughest part of taking over
a new job. These next few months are all about taking the next step as a
team and a program. We have had a few weeks of individual instruction so
far as well as workouts in the weight room.
Head coach Richard Pitino gives his thoughts on the state of the Gophers.
This summer I have chosen to stay away and watch from afar.
This gives my assistant coaches an opportunity to grow as coaches because
when the season starts, I am the main voice everyone hears. It also gives
our players an opportunity to get some much needed space from the pressures of
being coached by the head coach. It's a long season for everyone.
My hope is that when we start back up in the fall, our guys will be fresh
and eager to get back to work.
Carlos Morris- Has put on significant weight since he has gotten here and still has a ways to go in the weight room. I have full faith that he, with our strength coach Shaun Brown, will be ready to compete at the Big Ten level. He will need to come in and make an immediate impact. "Squirrel" is a very good ball handler and passer; he can get to the basket and make others better on the court. There's no reason why he can't make a difference from day one.
Nate Mason- Pleasant surprise! Think Andre Hollins, Gopher fans - very similar games. Nate has a great disposition on the court. He seems unfazed at all times. He does a little bit of everything well and can
play multiple positions. I am very excited about his potential.
Josh Martin- I watched him work out yesterday for the first time of the summer because we have been resting him due to a minor knee issue (I repeat, MINOR). One word when describing his athletic ability... WOW. Josh has an infectious personality on the court and is always encouraging his teammates. He has a chance to be a very, very good player. Fan favorite!
Zach Lofton- The sky is the limit for Zach. He has all the tools and talent to be a big-time guard. Phenomenal athlete, great length and has the ability to get his shot off at any time. We need him to be ready next year.
Gaston Diedhiou and Bakary Konate- Both guys are working hard physically as well as academically to finish up strong. We expect both to be on campus and ready to go come the fall. Very excited to coach both student-athletes. Phenomenal kids!
Returners- Who has made the biggest jump over the summer? This award goes to Daquein McNeil. That small forward spot will be a fun competition. I really like the direction Day Day is headed.
My staff and I hit the road on Wednesday to go find the next great Gopher. Recruiting has been going very well. Year one was good, I hope year two can be GREAT.
Hope everyone has a great 4th of July! Go
MINNEAPOLIS (GopherSports.com) - The Minnesota Wild have signed Gopher Hockey alum Stu Bickel to a one-year, two-way contract, the National Hockey League (NHL) organization announced on Tuesday evening.
The Chanhassen, Minn., native had eight points (one goal, seven assists) in 24 games with the Hartford Wolf Pack in 2013-14 and appeared in 67 games for the New York Rangers from 2011-13 with nine assists. The defenseman also appeared in 18 playoff games for the Rangers in 2011-12.
Bickel skated for the Gophers during the 2007-08 season and notched seven points (one goal, six assists).