The Gophers currently have two players on their roster with more than one year of experience playing for the team (Joey King and Charles Buggs). Continuity has clearly been an issue, and some might say that stalled Dre Hollins' development (in addition to injuries). Three years in a row the Gophers have averaged at least one transfer recruit per class, meaning they have at least one more player sitting out a year in addition to their redshirted players. Certainly not a bad thing to bring in veterans; however, you may think of it as a temporary fix.
Hindsight is 20/20, right? So I'll let the past be the past, but some of the Gophers frontcourt woes and overall lack of team chemistry may stem directly from those transfers. Tubby Smith certainly had his own issues with players transferring to and from the University of Minnesota. I should note that everything we are hearing about Fitzgerald and Lynch should only give credence to the hiring of a Big Ten Head Coach coming in with one year of Head Coaching experience. He can flat out recruit. That Amir Coffey team is still a year away, so let's stay in the present.
Here's what I see this year:
Leadership: Nate Mason, Coach P
Shot chucker: Carlos Morris, Joey King
Grinder: Charles Buggs, Bakary Konate
Unknown: Diedhou, Walk-ons, all of freshmen class (will revisit come Big 10 season)
The Gophers really only have five guys that played real minutes last season.
Those five guys coming back I like, a lot, but it's five guys. Growing pains are going to be extremely apparent. The lineup adjustments, in particular starting lineup adjustments could be as often as week to week or game to game starting out. It won't be as simple for Pitino to play platoons like Coach Cal in Kentucky. Through these growing pains there will be very few constants. Dare I say, Nate "The Great" Mason will have competition keeping his starting role. If there is one thing that Pitino is good at getting out of his players it's energy. As loyal Gopher followers we have come to expect that out of our squads if nothing else.
Players like Buggs and Konate could grow into quality players and leaders in their own right. They are the grinders and energizers that could force this team to grow together instead of individually.
Guys like Murphy, McBrayer, and Dorsey (all freshmen) we just don't know what we have yet. You can bet that they will make costly turnovers as the season moves along, and you can bet that there will be some headaches in Puerto Rico, but these freshmen know what is expected. One of the recruiting pitches from Coach Pitino was early playing time, because they have so few guys returning on scholarship that will play this season. That should tell you that these freshmen aren't shy of the moment. Freshmen Power Forward, Jordan Murphy was heading for VCU before Smart left for UT. The other freshmen are two highly-touted guards from Queens, New York and Maryland. With the Maryland Terrapins returning players like Trimble and Wells these freshmen will have a steep learning curve if they want to earn some hometown respect.
This team is young. Really young.
It's hard to focus on this season when next season looks so bright and this young Gopher squad has another year under its belt. I can see Reggie Lynch clogging the lane like Big David Lattin from that champion UTEP Miners squad, and Amir Coffey could be the scoring punch the Gophers need as Carlos Morris plays his final season. The future is bright, but there is plenty to get excited about this season as Gopher fans prepare their barn animal costumes.