Barnstorming with Grimm: Behind the Bench

| No TrackBacks

No players like to sit on the bench during a game, but when the Golden Gophers are out the game, they do have some pretty nice chairs to sit on. In this week's episode of "Barnstorming," radio play-by-play man Mike Grimm pays a visit to the Gopher bench to show us who sits where on game night.

Get to Know Oto Osenieks

| No TrackBacks

Get to know redshirt freshman Oto Osenieks. The Riga, Latvia, native talks about his home country, his redshirt year, and even Ricky Rubio in these Q&As.

Q: What are some things that you learned during your redshirt year?
A: On the basketball court, I learned a lot. I learned what Coach Smith wants from defense. I learned his system offensively, too. I worked a lot on my game individually. Off the court, I adjusted to American culture more. I learned the language the language more, and learned in classes.

Q: How did it feel the first time you came into a game this year?
A: It felt awesome to be able to step out on the court after the year that I waited. It was hard (waiting), and I was really happy to go out there with Elliott (Eliason) and Chris (Halvorsen), who also redshirted.

Q: When you are in the game, do you specifically look for three-pointers, or do you just take them when they come to you?
A: I'm always trying to spot up for an open three-pointer, but if it's not there, then I just screen somebody and move without the ball and try and make opportunities for other players.

Q: How did you develop your shot?
A: I remember when I was a little kid I used to shoot every day. I just love shooting. I used to play point guard, and I always shot threes. I love three-pointers.

Q: When was the last time you were home in Latvia?

A: Last summer, the year before, in June.

Q: How does your family follow the games?
A: When the games are on ESPN, they can see it in Latvia, too. On Big Ten Network, when the games are live, they stream them. But if the games are not live on TV, they cannot see them. They just follow the live stat updates.

Q: Do you talk to your family on the phone a lot?
A: We have an eight-hour difference, so it's hard to get on the same page time-wise. But we talk a lot on Skype on weekends.

Q: People probably get your last name wrong all the time, but how often do people spell your first name incorrectly (with two "T"s)?
A: Yeah, it actually happens. I don't know if they have the name Oto with one "T" in America. It's kind of rare. I understand the mistake.

Q: What do you like to do for fun outside of basketball?

A: I like to go to movies and play video games with teammates. But you don't get a lot of time off, usually.

Q: Have you chosen a major yet?
A: Business management. And a minor in sport management.

Q: How do you like your major so far?
A: It's good. I'm taking all my classes next semester that are required. The first years were just general requirements.
 

The Golden Gophers line up on the sideline of the Williams Arena court. Clad in their maroon and gold practice gear, they are ready to get started. For the next several minutes, they go through a series of warm-ups--from slow lunges to straight-legged kicks to calf stretches. The Gophers go through this sequence of dynamic and static stretches before each practice.
Go Gophers! Elliott Eliason
Go Gophers!
The Gopher strength & conditioning program has helped Eliason put on 43 pounds.
Go Gophers!

While head coach Tubby Smith and his assistants run most of the practice, Kevin Kocos is the man in charge of those first few minutes. Kocos is now in his second season as director of the men's basketball team's strength and conditioning program, and his fourth season overall with the program. He earned his Bachelor's Degree at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, and before earning his Master's Degree at Minnesota, he was an intern with the Chicago Bulls strength and conditioning program.

During the season, the Gophers lift in the weight room with Kocos twice a week. Out of season, they train with him Monday through Friday, incorporating more agility, speed, and conditioning drills as well as weights. The volume and nature of the work depends on the time of the year.

"In the beginning of the season a lot of times, it's getting them prepared for the volume of work they're going to be doing on the court," Kocos said. "We do a lot of conditioning in the preseason. Then after that, I can progress them to getting stronger, more explosive, and doing the things that are going to transfer more on the court--getting them faster, playing better defense and everything."

Now that Minnesota is most of the way through its Big Ten schedule, the team's strength and conditioning needs are different from way back in the nonconference season. At this point in the season, Kocos has the Gophers lifting lighter weights, but with quicker repetitions.

"The speed in the weight room will transfer over onto the court and be very fast, and power output will be a lot higher that way," he said.

Workouts must not only be tailored to where the team is in the season, but also to where each individual player is.

"You need individualization, because all these guys come from different training backgrounds," Kocos said. "Some guys will still benefit from doing heavy weight training and getting stronger. Other guys are already strong and they need to work on their speed and explosiveness more. It depends on every individual. Some guys are so fast already, but they're not even strong enough to put on the brakes, so to say, and stop themselves and make cuts."

In his time at Minnesota, Kocos has been particularly impressed with the improvement of guard Austin Hollins. He has been in the starting lineup for nearly every game of his sophomore season, and he is averaging more than eight points per game. Kocos would attribute a portion of that success to Hollins' added body weight and increased lifting capacity in the weight room.
Go Gophers! Austin Hollins
Go Gophers!
Austin Hollins has significantly increased his lifting capacity since arriving at Minnesota.
Go Gophers!

"I believe he's put on about 25 pounds of body weight and he's put on about 75 pounds on his back squat, 50 pounds on his bench, about 50 pounds on his power clean," Kocos said. "You can see it in the way he moves on the court--how he jumps, and how he makes cuts--that it's really helped him."

To make those types of gains with each player--to successfully individualize each player's training program--Kocos collaborates with the basketball coaching staff as well as team athletic trainer Roger Schipper.

"We're always in daily communication, finding out, 'This guy might need a little more conditioning because he didn't play that many minutes the other night,'" Kocos said. "Or, 'This guy's ankle's very sore because he rolled it the other day, so we might need to modify that to do only single-leg stuff.' Or things of that nature. So injuries, conditioning--it's changing every day."

To limit those injuries as much as possible, the Gophers must do their stretches correctly. Those slow movements might not seem as exciting as lifting hundreds of pounds or increasing a vertical leap, but really, the two functions of the program--preventing injuries and building better athletes--work toward the same goal.

"Everything we do here is geared towards injury prevention," Kocos said. "The stronger I make them, the more efficient they're going to be on the court, the less likely they are to be injured. It's not all completely separate--injury prevention and performance can be one and the same. As long as they're becoming better at these movements, they're going to be safer athletes."

While safety is always important, all competitive athletic programs have aspirations beyond keeping their players healthy. To win games in one of the top basketball conferences in the country, the Gophers need to have the physical tools to stay in the game against other Division I players who have worked just as hard. Experience, basketball-specific skills, and smarts all play a role. But sometimes, it is strength and conditioning that can determine who has the edge.

"The difference maker between elite athletes and anonymous athletes is speed and explosiveness," Kocos said.

Observations from Wednesday's 66-61 Loss Against Michigan State

| No TrackBacks
Back and Forth
In the first half of the game, there were four ties and 16 lead changes. No team led by more than five points. In the Gophers' and Spartans' last meeting, Michigan State led by 10 at halftime. The second half tonight never saw a lead larger than nine points. Tonight's meeting was much more competitive than the 68-52 loss on Jan. 25 in East Lansing.
Go Gophers! Austin
Go Gophers!
Austin Hollins made four three-pointers on his way to 17 points.
Go Gophers!

Back on the Scoreboard
Starting guard Austin Hollins was held scoreless at Northwestern on Saturday, but came back with a 17-point performance tonight. He posted eight of those points in the first half, including both of the team's first-half threes. He was 4-of-6 from three for the game. Elliott Eliason scored four points after a scoreless game in Evanston. Previously, Joe Coleman had been in a four-game stretch without a basket. He broke that slump with 12 points at Northwestern, and had four tonight.

May I Be of Assistance?

Julian Welch has been distributing the ball well lately. He established a career high with nine assists against Ohio State, followed by five at Northwestern. Welch dished out eight assists tonight. He is now averaging 3.2 assists per game on the year.

Spartans Continue to Roll
With this win, Michigan State retained sole possession of first place in the Big Ten standings. The Spartans have won six straight games and sit at No. 6 in both polls.

Blog: The Barnyard Travels to Evanston

| 3 Comments | No TrackBacks
Normally, I work as a communications student assistant at Golden Gopher home games. But for the second year in a row, I traveled with almost 100 other students on a Barnyard Road Trip for a Gopher away game. This year's destination was Evanston, Ill., for the Gophers' Feb. 18 tilt against Northwestern. The annual excursion was sponsored by the Golden Dunkers and the College Licensing Company. The Barnyard Board and Gopher marketing department planned the trip.

Photo Gallery

On Saturday morning, we could check in at the Williams Arena lobby starting at 6:00. Our game tickets, trip t-shirts, and itinerary sheets were ready for us when we arrived. Our two buses' departure from the Barn -- which was scheduled for 7 a.m. -- was delayed by about 20 minutes while we waited for one straggler who had accidentally overslept.  To her credit, she was really hustling carrying all her gear.
Go Gophers! bus
Go Gophers!
The bus leaves the Barn on Saturday morning.
Go Gophers!

The bus ride was pretty quiet at first while some people tried to go back to sleep. Around 11:15, we got off of I-94 for a bit to grab lunch at a mall in Madison. It was fun walking around Badger country with all our Gopher gear on. We watched "Happy Gilmore" for the next stretch of the bus ride. I used the bus's wireless Internet to check on early college basketball games as well as the Gopher baseball team's tournament.

When we finally got off the freeway, we drove through some business and residential areas to get to our hotel in Evanston. We discovered that no one's keycards worked, so the nice people at the front desk reprogrammed them for us. Then my roommates and I watched -- what else -- more basketball before leaving for our own game.

On the way to Welsh-Ryan Arena, people on my bus started an impromptu rendition of the "Rouser" and then "Gametime" by Mac Irv (former Gopher player Lawrence McKenzie), the song played before Gopher home games. We arrived at the home of the Wildcats about an hour before the 6:00 game. It was cool to see the football stadium -- Ryan Field -- before going into the gym.

This was my first time in Welsh-Ryan. It is a pretty small arena. To get to our upper-level seats, we almost had to go outside -- the stairway was kind of separate from the concourse and we had to go through a door to get to it. We found our spots in the wooden bleachers and got ready to cheer on our Gophers.
Go Gophers! Barnyard
Go Gophers!
The Barnyard waits for the action to start.
Go Gophers!

When the team came back out on the court for more warm-ups, we cheered and sang the "Rouser." The team definitely noticed us--I could see Andre Hollins smiling his signature smile at us. Northwestern's student section -- the Wildside -- looked up at us, too. The Wildside's seats are located behind both baskets. We were in the upper corner by the Gophers' bench.

We stayed loud and stood throughout the game. We tried to pump up the Gophers' defense and encourage the offense. (We also like to believe that our noise was the reason behind any missed Wildcat free throws.) Some sweet dunks and Julian Welch's five three-pointers got us extra loud.

Unfortunately, it was a rough game for the Gophers. Our yelling could only do so much to disrupt the Wildcats' offense, and Northwestern ended up with a win. But even when it got to the point where we knew the loss was coming, our group -- though
outnumbered--was as good as or better than the Wildside. After the buzzer sounded, we stayed in our seats for one more "Rouser" and even an off-key singing of our alma mater. Despite the loss, "to thy colors true we shall ever be." 

Following the game, most of us found something to eat, and many decided to explore Evanston. I was really tired from waking up at 5 a.m., so I decided to stay in after dinner, watch the end of the Michigan-Ohio State game, and go to bed.

The next morning as I was walking down the street to church, I heard some people who were out walking their dog having a conversation about the Wildcats-Gophers game. After I got back and we loaded our stuff on the bus, my co-worker/trip roommate (Kelly Kleine) and I took a walk of our own around our hotel's neighborhood. Evanston is a cool area, and it was nice to move around a bit before the ride home.

We again stopped in Madison for lunch, at the same mall. Kelly and I could not resist going to Culver's. A post-lunch viewing of "Dodgeball" made the trip seem to speed up for a while, but when the movie ended, most of us were anxious to be home. It was a fun trip -- well worth the $35 and 14 or so hours on a bus -- but it was nice to get back to the good old Barn.

Thanks again to our sponsors, planners, bus drivers, and everyone else who made the trip possible. Hats off to thee.

--Justine Buerkle, Athletic Communications Student Assistant

Barnstorming with Grimm: From Locker Room to Court

| No TrackBacks

This week, watch Mike Grimm as he follows the route that the Golden Gophers take each game. Walk in the team's shoes--past the pictures of Gopher basketball history, and up the stairs to the raised floor. After the tour, Grimm talks about the Gophers' upcoming game against Northwestern.

Get to Know Ralph Sampson III

| No TrackBacks

Through 18 games this season, Ralph Sampson III's career scoring total stands at 980 points. With 20 more points, he would become just the fifth Golden Gopher ever to amass 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, and 150 blocks. He currently has 605 rebounds and 193 blocks.

The  Gophers' senior day is coming up in a few weeks. In the meantime, get to know more about Sampson--one of only two Minnesota seniors--with these Q&As. 

Q: Could you talk a little about your role as the veteran on the team?
A: My role as a veteran would be to give my experiences and my words of wisdom to the team and try to guide the team as best as I can, to try to get them ready for the upcoming games and upcoming battles that we're going to face in the Big Ten season.

Q: What were some of the major things you took away from your summer workouts with Michael Jordan's trainer?
A: Some of the major takeaways that I got from it are that I can always push myself harder--that's definitely one thing I learned--and just how to take care of myself, take care of my body. And when things aren't going a certain way or going the way I want them to go, how to figure out ways to change them or how to adapt to those situations that come up.

Q: Elliott Eliason filled in for you in the starting lineup for a few games while you were injured. How would you assess his performance?
A: He redshirted last year, so it was his first time out there kind of going through the ropes. I think he handled it fairly well. The whole team had to step in and take on that role once I went down. When Trevor went down and when we both were out, I felt that the team came together a lot. We're still able to pull out wins. From that, I kind of found out what kind of heart our team had and what kind of fight we had in us, which is definitely beneficial now.

Q: Coach Smith and your teammates have said you are a good communicator on the court. Is that a skill you have always had, or have you had to work to develop it?
A: I think I developed it my freshman year coming in here. Back in high school, I didn't really understand the meaning of talking on the court and how to communicate. It really was not until I got here around the seniors and upperclassmen who taught me how to communicate and how to talk on the court. Now I do it all the time and try to get my teammates to do it. Coach is always harping on communication and talking on the court, and how we'll be a better team.

Q: You--one of the tallest guys on the team--won the three-point contest at All-Star Friday Night. Talk a little about your outside shooting ability.
A: Outside shooting is one of the main things I tried to work on over the summertime--trying to extend the range on my jump shot and just being more comfortable taking it. Everybody saw that when I came back here and won the three-point contest. I really don't think anybody was expecting me to win. I think it was a shocker to see me out there taking it all.

Q: What would it mean to you to reach 1,000 career points?
A: It would mean a lot, just to join the greats here at Minnesota. To be in the 1,000-point club would be a wonderful honor. I'm close. I'll just keep grinding it out and just take it one step at a time.

Q: What do you like better: a sweet dunk, or a sweet hook shot?
A: Nothing really beats the feel of a sweet hook shot, but in terms of getting the crowd into it, getting your team into it, a dunk is better.

Q: What are some of your favorite classes you have taken at Minnesota?
A: My favorite class that I took was an art class called Time and Interactivity, where you got to create sound bites and got to alter video clips and do video editing. We got to put our own thoughts and our own creativity into each project. ...I got to explore different things and hobbies that I liked.

Q: You are from Duluth, Ga. Have you ever been to Duluth, Minn.?

A: No. I haven't been there yet. I actually didn't know there was a Duluth, Minn., until I got here. People were telling me about, and I thought they were talking about Duluth back at home, but really they were talking about Duluth, Minn. It was a little confusing at times.

Get to Know Austin Hollins

| No TrackBacks


Austin Hollins is averaging more than eight points a game as a Gopher starter. He is also one of the team's leading three-point shooters. Learn more about the sophomore guard from Germantown, Tenn., with these Q&As. In the video above, Hollins gives his thoughts on Williams Arena, moving from Arizona to Tennessee, and more.

Q: You have been in the starting lineup for almost every game this season. Has that helped your confidence?
A: Yeah, it kind of helps my confidence. It's just a matter of working hard every day in practice. And I put in a lot of work during the offseason. So, it's nice to be in the starting lineup now this year.

Q: After leading the team in steals last season, you have a nice amount this year, too. How do you force so many turnovers?
A: I think it's just a matter of being in the right position on defense. You have to see your man and the ball. You have to know where you are. You have to know who your teammates have, what their men are doing, know the other team's plays, and just anticipate.

Q: A lot of times you are assigned to guard other teams' best players. What do you do to prepare for that challenge?

A: It's watching a lot of film, getting their tendencies, and just going out there and getting my mental mind state right, so I can go out there and have a lot of energy. I get a lot of rest the night before and just come out ready to play.

Q: Who is the toughest person you have guarded in college?
A: I think E'Twaun Moore was pretty tough to guard. Talor Battle is definitely tough to guard. So I'd have to say them from last year.

Q: You are one of the team's leading three-point shooters. Is it nice to have other guys, like Julian Welch and Andre Hollins, who can hit threes, too?
A: Yeah, definitely. It's nice because, if you're off, you have teammates that can pick you up. Seeing other people make shots helps you make shots, as well. So it's nice to be able to go to the basket, kick it out, and have teammates that can knock down shots.

Q: Are you always looking for threes, or are you usually looking to drive and just hit threes if they are open?
A: I would say that I look for threes more often, but it's a matter of just knowing when to shoot threes and when not to. Sometimes you have to be ready to pump fake and go to the basket and create for your teammates, as well.

Q: With the NBA lockout stretching into December, was your dad (Memphis Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins) able to come to more of your games than usual?
A: Yeah, he did. He came here for midnight madness (Gopher All-Star Friday Night in October) and he went to Orlando for our tournament down there for most of the games, so he got to see that. It was nice having him around.

Q: Do you follow the Grizzlies closely now that they are back in action?
A: Yeah, I try to follow them pretty closely, keep track of what they're doing.

Q: What is it like playing with another Hollins from Tennessee?
A: It's nice to have someone on the team from the same area you're from. Before we came to Minnesota, we weren't best friends. We knew each other, but we didn't hang out or anything. So we've really gotten to know each other since we've been here, and we hang out when we go home. He's like a little brother to me, even though we're not related.

Q: Did you and Andre play against each other in high school?

A: We did play against each other in high school.

Q: How well do you remember those matchups?
A: I didn't guard him most of the time. I guarded him a couple of games, but most of the time I wasn't on him.

Q: Who won?

A: Sad to say, they won every time. There were some close games that we should have won, but we won't go into any details.

Q: Have you decided on a major yet?
A: I'm going to be majoring in business marketing. I'll be declaring this coming semester.

Q: What led you to choose that major?
A: I wanted to do something involving business, so I went into the College of Education and Human Development and I saw the business options, and business marketing was one of them. So I followed that and I started to like that.

Gameday Videos: Border Battling and Barnstorming

| No TrackBacks
Can't wait until tonight's Border Battle? Get even more excited by watching this promo video for the game. Tip-off is set for 6:00 p.m.



Follow that up with this week's installment of "Barnstorming with Grimm." Radio play-by-play man Mike Grimm pays a visit to the team study room in Williams Arena.

Observations from Sunday's 69-61 Win at Nebraska

| No TrackBacks
Chipping In
Sophomore guard Chip Armelin continues to provide a spark off the bench for Minnesota. He set a new career high and reached double figures for the fourth time this season, the second time in the Gophers' last three games. Armelin scored 10 of his team-leading 15 points in the second half. He also added a fancy assist, changing hands with the ball between his legs before passing it to Maverick Ahanmisi for a lay-up. Armelin finished the game with three assists and five rebounds in addition to shooting 7-of-11 from the field.
Go Gophers! Chip Armelin
Go Gophers!
Armelin scored 15 of the Gophers' 40 bench points.
Go Gophers!

Welch Excels Beyond the Arc
Coming into this weekend, Julian Welch was eighth in the Big Ten in three-point shooting percentage (.426). He bettered his average to .453 with a 3-for-3 performance against Nebraska. He is especially accurate in true road games, with a 15-for-25 total (.600).

Long Time No See
The Gophers and Cornhuskers have faced each other 60 times, but today was their first meeting since Dec. 8, 2004. Minnesota won that contest, 57-48, in Lincoln.  The Gophers lead the all-time series, 47-13. Today was the two teams' first meeting as conference rivals. It was also Chadron, Neb., native Elliott Eliason's first time playing a college game in his home state.

Second Chances
Offensive rebounds proved critical for the Gophers in today's victory. In the first half, the Gophers limited the Cornhuskers to one offensive board. For the game, Minnesota outscored Nebraska, 14-6, in second chance points with an 11-8 edge on the offensive glass. The Gophers out-rebounded the Huskers by a tally of 31-24 overall.

Other Ways to Contribute
Joe Coleman was held scoreless for the second consecutive game, but he still had an impact on today's contest. The freshman led the team in rebounding with a total of seven. In Wednesday's game, he tied for team lead with six.