I would consider myself much more of a basketball guy than a football guy. I love football and I think I know more than your average rube on the technical aspects of the game. But having spent several years coaching basketball at the collegiate level, I have a deeper passion and knowledge base for basketball.
So after that self-promotion, my point...This has been a football heavy blog for the last couple months and it's time for some basketball info.
This is not going to be a 2007-08 season preview but I need to state my thoughts as a starting point. I think there is actually talent on this current roster. Not the kind of talent to finish top 3 in the conference or make a run into the tournament. But enough talent that on a given night they can beat just about anybody this year (with Wis and OSU down and nobody significantly up). A top 5 finish (read 4th or 5th) and a bubble team that makes the tourney is not out of the question, imo.
Why I think this and what kind of meds I'm taking can be discussed another time.
My point for this particular post is that while I think there is some talent for 2007-08, there is very little talent (read NONE) for the following season. Nathan Garth may come in and help out as a red shirted freshmen but that won't make up for losing Coleman, Tollackson and McKenzie. Last season's "prized" recruit was Bryce Webster. Webster was supposed to provide some stability and an inside presence after this year's senior big men graduated. Well Bryce is very likely leaving the team (and quiting basketball altogether).
So that leaves the 2008-09 roster looking something like this...
PG - Nate Garth - rsFr
SG - Abu-Shamala - Sr (God help us)
SF - Brandon Smith - Sr (if he's still on the team, he is talented)
PF - Damian Johnson - Jr
C - um, Jonathan Williams? - Sr
Hoffarber - So
Kevin Payton - Jr
Lawrence Westbrook - Jr
Travis Busch - Sr
Al Nolen - So
That is an awful lineup that would struggle in the MIAC (not really, but they'd be bad). Garth may be decent, Smith is very talented and I have hope for Damian Johnson and Hoffarber but there just isn't Big Ten talent/depth there.
How will Tubby and staff give us a roster worth watching in 2008-09? Even with a stellar recruiting class of incoming freshmen, it will be tough to win with that roster. From the sounds of it Tubby is hitting the JUCO circuit rather hard.
- Paul Carter - PF, 6'8", Missouri-West Plains - Carter is almost a certain Gopher. He has 3 other offers but lists MN as a clear cut #1. Good news is that the other offers are from weaker schools like Baylor, Charlotte and Wyoming. The bad news is that the only other schools offering are Baylor, Charlotte and Wyoming. He will have 3 seasons of eligibility left at the D1 level and as we have seen with other Tubby recruits he is known as a coachable kid, who has leadership traits and a strong work ethic. We will keep an eye on Carter and his successes this season. "Paul is a special player. He will be one of the premier players in Region 16 and the country," head coach Brian Ostermann said to JucoJunction "He will challenge for Player of the Year honors, and fans will really enjoy watching him play." That is high praise and time will tell.
- Festus Ezeli - C, 6'11", Yuba CC - Ezeli is a VERY interesting recruit. He is technically a JUCO recruit but he has 4 years of eligibility and pending academic approval from the NCAA will be a part of D1 program this fall. Ezeli has gone from a relative unknown to one of the hottest names on the scene. He is what you would call a raw talent, but over the summer has shown enough promise/talent/improvement that he is getting interest from just about any school in need of help in the paint. Fortunately for MN he is playing AAU ball with Nate Garth who has already committed to Tubby and will be on campus after the 1st semester. Unfortunate for MN is that schools like Ohio State, Flor, UCLA, Cal and others. Minnesota has not actually offered (unsure why but not my decision) this Nigerian but if he has any interest in the Gophers I would expect to see one very soon.
- Tony Dennison - SG, 6'2", Broward CC (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) - Dennison is described as one of the most prolific scorers in the country. His coach tells Rivals that as a freshman Dennison averaged nearly 28 ppg. That is impressive and is exactly the kind of shot in the arm this team will need next season. What I find interesting is that if he is such a dynamic scorer then why is his only scholarship offer from Hofstra? He has interest from OK, Miami, Kan, KSt, Gonzaga and MN but no offers yet. Maybe that is another topic for another day, but it does make one wonder.
- Orlando Allen - PF, 6'10", Paris JC - Formerly a Seton Hall recruit out of high school but now is open to anyone. Has interest from the likes of Indiana, Kent, OK, GTech, Neb, Penn St and MN to name a few; but has no official offers. Out of high school Allen was one of the top 15 players in the Cincinnati area. His numbers seemed very average last season but we'll see what this big man can produce as a soph. Yet another potential recruit with a strong work ethic (I'm seeing a pattern here).
He have scholarships to give and so far nobody willing to take them. Landing a couple quality JUCO players along with a couple of very talented freshmen (Royce White and Rodney Williams in particular) would help to jump start this program and get it back to a competitive level.
How about an official Gopher Nation Top 10(11) basketball recruit list...
- Elroy Vargas - PF - 5 star and #10 overall
- Ralph Sampson III - C - 4 star
- Devoe Joseph - SG - 4 star
- Festus Ezeli - C - JUCO
- Stan Simpson - PF - 3 star
- Paul Carter - PF - JUCO
- Tony Dennison - SG - JUCO
- Colton Iverson - SF - 3 star
- Orlando Allen - C - JUCO
- Lewis Jackson - PG - 3 star
- Justin Brownlee - SF - 4 star