Good afternooon Gopher Fans! After a few days of reflection of the past season I thought it would be good to give my thoughts on year two. First off, I thought our crowds were terrific again all season long. Our staff and players truly appreciate the support. The fans and Williams Arena are what make this job special. Our loyal fans deserve a great team and we are doing our best to give that to you! Aside from wins and losses (yes, I do know that's how we are judged) I thought our offense, pace of play, steal percentage, and assists all improved from year one. The defense and rebounding still has to get significantly better. Free throw shooting was a bit of an issue early but got better as the season went on.
Non-Conference - Obviously we started off with a very tough test vs. Louisville in Puerto Rico on national TV. We learned that game that Nate Mason wasn't scared of the bright lights. Unfortunately, Harrell and Rozier were too much for us to handle. Aside from the game, I thought the experience was very valuable for our whole program. We constantly talk about sacrifice and commitment to our guys and there is no greater sacrifice then the men and women in the armed forces.
We went on to split at Madison Square Garden a couple of games later. I was very disappointed with the way we finished the St. John's game. With the game in hand we had too many inexplicable turnovers and fouls that were too hard to overcome. I liked the way we rebounded the next day to beat a very good Georgia team. Our guys then went on to beat Wake Forest handily on the road. Andre Hollins and Carlos Morris were very good that game. Our December was certainly successful overall but I would have liked to have been tested a little bit more to prepare us for Big Ten season. That is my fault and we are looking to add a quality opponent next season during December. The question our staff is asking is if we want to start at home or on the road. We are looking at all options.
Conference - The first five games certainly took a lot out of everyone. To start 0-and-5 was difficult but also to have it done in the fashion it was tested everyone. My biggest regret was not having our guys mentally tough enough to handle that. Throughout the Big Ten slate I was proud of how positive our guys remained regardless of the fact that we were swimming upstream for most of conference play. They did a good job of blocking out the noise. Certainly winning at Michigan State and Iowa were bright spots. We obviously have to do a better job of protecting our home court in the future. We lost a bunch of close ones that could have gone either way. Were we unlucky? I'll never use that excuse.
Big Ten Tournament - I loved our competitive spirit against Rutgers. Obviously Joey King provided a huge lift for us. We battled vs. Ohio State but unfortunately Mo getting in foul trouble was too tough for us to overcome. Russell was spectacular for them again.
Seniors - I thank them for all they gave to our basketball program on and off the court. They will all graduate and do great things. It's never easy to have a new coach in the middle of their college careers. They all embraced me and my staff from day one. Elliott, Mo, DeAndre, and Andre have all expressed their desire to keep playing professionally at some capacity. They will spend the next few months finishing up classes as well as preparing for whatever their future holds. Kendal will be entering the real world and will be successful at whatever he does because of his character and work ethic.
The Future - We are excited about next season and beyond. We will likely have at least eight freshman and sophomores. We will be one of the youngest teams in the Big Ten but that excites me! Joey King will need to provide great leadership for everyone in the program. He has everyone's respect and has worked hard to earn that. If Carlos Morris and Charles Buggs dedicate their offseason to putting on weight they will make a great impact next season. Carlos has to improve his defense and shot selection. Buggs just needs to continue to grow in all facets as a player. Huge offseason for both of them.
Nate Mason has the ability to be one of the better guards in this league when it's all said and done. He has to work hard to not fall into the trap of the sophomore slump. He will be the number-one guy on everyone's scouting report. I'm confident he can handle it.
Bakary Konate has the potential to be special. He has the size and the athleticism. The biggest thing is getting him game experience as much as possible. Gaston continues to improve. The little playing time he did get second semester after coming in behind the 8-ball certainly helped a little bit.
Schedule - We are currently in the process of planning a foreign trip in August. We will be able to get ten days of practice as well some games versus good competition. The timing is perfect for such a young team. Incoming freshmen will be allowed to play on this trip. As I stated earlier we are looking to add another game against a high major opponent in December. We are still not sure if it will start at our place or on the road. We believe our Big Ten/ACC Challenge game will be home but we don't know that for sure yet. We have a bunch of good options on the board. We hope to complete that soon.
Recruiting - We have three scholarships still available and we are currently involved with several prospects for next season. Having three open doesn't mean we have to use them all, obviously. We believe we will have a top-25 recruiting class when it's all said and done. Dorsey, Dupree, Jarvis, and Jonathan all excite me. They will need to be ready to contribute right away! We hit the road again in April to watch prospects on their AAU teams for two weekends in what is called the evaluation period. Closing down the borders in Minnesota is vital! Thanks again to everyone again for their support!