A loaded local 15U AAU team; Approving a practice facility and getting one built are not the same; Indiana Hoosier Matt Roth's situation; Northwestern's roster coming together.
Former Gopher Richard Coffey's (above) son Amir (2016) can play some ball, too.
Recruiting / PnR 15s
I generally do not watch much 15U basketball, but it's worth pointing out the Minnesota Pump N Run 15U team. I'll highlight a few guys below, but that's not to say there isn't additional talent on this squad:
Henry Ellenson (2015 high school class): The Gophers recently offered Henry, the youngest of the Ellenson brothers. Tubby Smith has one of his brothers, Wally, joining the Gophers' 2012 incoming class and there is a good relationship between the family and the U, but Henry will continue to gain a lot of interest from other schools. Simply put, I believe he is a definite high major player and if he works hard could become a major impact college player with a future playing basketball after school.
Amir Coffey (2016): Without getting into too many specifics here, there are some things I've seen from Amir that lead me to believe he may receive a lot of high major interest. His young looks and slight frame are in stark contrast to my memories of his father Richard playing at the U, but then I remember the talented kid I'm watching won't even be a high school student until the end of this summer. In addition, his dad filled out while growing several inches taller after high school.
The lefthander is probably around 6'4" and long, possesses a versatile game and has a competitive fire. I think he's going to be very good.
Like Henry Ellenson, the family has a University of Minnesota connection, but that guarantees nothing. Amir's six-foot sisters Sydney (2012 HS, Marist) and Nia (2013 HS, Northwestern) have committed to basketball elsewhere.
Marshawn Wilson (2015): I'm not yet sold on what level of D1 basketball will make the most sense for Wilson, but he's a physically solid kid with some startling athletic abilities. Watching him play actually brought back some awful memories for me.
Many years ago I was playing in a Minneapolis city championship game against Farview. We had rolled past the competition all year, but before the opening tip I was already getting concerned as I laced up my Filas and looked at the opposition. A couple of these guys had what I recall being full beards. I hadn't seen that before against 7th grade competition.
The game began and Farview threw the nastiest trapping defense I've ever faced. What Wilson brought back memories of is me trying to throw the ball over these guys and they would seemingly jump 15 feet into the air and take away passes. The quickness and height of their standing vertical jumps was just ridiculous (and my lack of basketball playing abilities didn't help).
Marshawn isn't sporting a full beard, but he can do some things on the court that most people can't. Impressive.
Many folks hope that we'll hear some definitive plans on a new practice facility for Gopher basketball in the coming months, but remember that even after an announcement filled with detailed designs, projects like these can take considerable time to come together. Certainly it would be nice to set some goals and have a vision, but depending on the funding, design, site location and other factors, this could be as little as a one year plan or span several years.
A recent and relevant example is VCU. Incoming Minnesota AD Norwood Teague was able to have the school's 2012-2016 master facility plan amended last August to include a new $9 million basketball practice facility. Coming off an improbable run to the 2011 Final Four, the timing was right for VCU to pursue a new facility. The idea is good and a location for the new building has been identified, but there is one major issue that could hold things back: money. While the project has been added to the university's facility plan, the school is not providing funding. Unless and until VCU can find $9 million of private funding, the project could sit on hold and the team will continue practicing in the Franklin Street Gym, a building with a lot of history but one that is more than half a century old and outdated.
As is true with so many things, the details become important. High-level plans and a little lip service won't do the trick for Minnesota. They need reasonable and attainable goals followed by good execution. Sounds simple and obvious, but often loose plans and desires are mistaken for done deals and guarantees.
Multiple local and national news media outlets have reported on a new VCU practice facility as though it's something that exists today. In addition to reporting, "under Teague, VCU opened a $10 million practice facility for men's and women's basketball and other sports", the Associated Press highlighted the claim in its headline: "Teague tabbed as Minnesota AD — Opened $10 million practice facility in same position at VCU".
Even the University of Minnesota's biography of Teague at www.gophersports.com says that, "Teague initiated an extraordinary campaign in the fall of 2011 to construct a $10 million practice facility – the Franklin Street Gym. Today, the practice facility serves both the men’s and women’s basketball programs at VCU, as well as other sports."
The problem is that no new practice facility really exists. When the amendment to the facility plan was presented last August, one board member questioned why it was that "here we are just rubber-stamping this" and another said after the meeting that he "hadn't heard a word about this until now. I'm a big booster. I have season tickets. It just shocked me" and asked for a presentation that would bring together all the plans of athletic department.
Will VCU's plan for a new practice facility be realized in the next couple of years? It's tough to say because there is a huge difference between (a) deciding that if you receive $9 million from private parties, you'll then build a $9 million facility and (b) successfully raising $9 million and completing the project.
Minnesota supporters should hope that any announcement of plans for a new practice facility are well thought out and include attainable goals.
Last year I wrote about unique circumstances surrounding Matt Roth's eligibility and in the recent weeks the national media has explored the topic a bit. Roth is a fourth-year guard for the Indiana Hoosiers who possesses phenomenal shooting ability and range. In 12 minutes per game this season, he came off the bench to convert 42 of 77 (54.5%) tries from three-point range. Had he not been so good in 2011-12 there would be a lot less discussion about him, but even fans of an Indiana team that has deep talent heading into next season would like to have Roth's shooting abilities to call on off the bench.
Just two games into his second year at IU, Roth was injured and apparently (though this too is a key question) not cleared for competition until after the season ended. However, a medical hardship waiver was not sought. In most circumstances like this one, you would expect a waiver to be requested through the Big Ten conference after the season in question was completed. As I wrote last year, "Roth's biography published by the IU athletic department says that he "can apply for a medical redshirt following his senior year"...if a hardship waiver was desired this would have been pursued a year ago, not after his senior year. Based on the circumstances here, there would be exactly zero reasons to wait."
From a public relations perspective, it might look better to the casual observer if you sit on your hands for two years and then "don't have an extra scholarship available so you're not going to pursue an additional year" for Roth rather than what is effectively being done—declining to renew a scholarship for a player, one who stuck with the school during the rough times. Maybe a PR-play is what has happened here. Maybe there is something else to it. Things don't add up. What should be asked of Indiana is why was a hardship waiver request not submitted after the 2009-10 season?
Northwestern's Roster Shaping Up Nicely
Kevin Coble is long gone. Juice Thompson graduated a year ago. John Shurna finished up his time in Evanston this spring. Nonetheless, I think Northwestern has a good chance to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in its history next season.
Senior-to-be Drew Crawford (16.1 ppg) is a legitimate scoring threat who can lead the team and sophomore point guard Dave Sobolewski looks to build off an impressive freshman campaign (8.3 ppg, 3.7 apg, 16.6% TO rate). If JerShon Cobb (7.1 ppg) stays healthy he can make significant strides in what will be his junior year.
There are some experienced options in the backcourt with seniors Reggie Hearn (7.4 ppg) and Alex Marcotullio (5.2 ppg, 39.5% 3FG), while Tre Demps could contribute after shoulder surgery prematurely ended his freshman year.
Defensively and on the boards, Northwestern was atrocious this past season. The good news is that it can't get much worse for them in 2012-13. Last year the Wildcats had nothing inside, but there are reasons for optimism looking ahead to the new year. Nikola Cerina is a 6'9", 245 pound transfer from TCU who sat out last year after averaging 5.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in two years at TCU (18.8 DR% as a sophomore) and Louisville transfer Jared Swopshire is a 6'8" senior who can play immediately.
Swopshire's 19.3 DR% as a sophomore and 12 rebound performance a few months ago in a Big East tourney game evidence what he can do on the glass. His career hasn't gone exactly as hoped thus far, but he has had his moments and is capable of making a big impact for Bill Carmody.
Throw in a number of freshman that could help—Mike Turner (redshirt), Kale Abrahamson, Sanjay Lumpkin, the mysterious Mislav Brzoja and big Alex Olah—and I kind of like this team. I don't expect you'll see many folks hopping on board with my thoughts here, but this school really could be dancing next spring.
Tag(s): Gopher Basketball