One thing that has changed over the years is the types of off-season work that coaches can do, how they can do it, and how often they are allowed to work with their team.
One of the first items Coach Pitino covered is what his team is doing this fall and I think his statements were quite educational for the fan at home. Here is what Coach Pitino had to say…
“We have had two one-hour practices so far since school has started. NCAA rules allow us two hours of basketball a week per player and six hours of strength and conditioning. Once September 30th hits we can practice and strength train 20 hours a week.
“Our strength coach Shaun Brown will have a different roster to deal with this season than last year. We are much bigger and stronger than years past. We will play inside to out a lot more this year than last season. I have a feeling our front court with be tough to handle.”
Expectations are higher for the Gophers this year with the three new transfers (Davonte Fitzgerald, Reggie Lynch, and Akeem Springs) as well as the three freshmen (Amir Coffey, Michael Hurt, Eric Curry) joining the several returning players who gained valuable experience playing as underclassmen last year.
So Minnesota will be much, much more experienced, deeper, bigger, and that’s good because their schedule will be tougher than last year’s slate.
“We recently released our full schedule for our fans to see,” Coach Pitino explained. “A common theme we heard was that our fans wanted more marquee games at Williams Arena in the nonconference. I am excited to say that Arkansas and St. John's are two historic basketball programs who will visit the Barn in November.
“We also travel down to Tallahassee to play a talented Florida State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. A game I really enjoyed playing last year was at the Pentagon in South Dakota.
“We will play a very talented Vanderbilt team there on December 3rd. It's a great opportunity for Gopher fans who don't get to come to campus to see us play. It's an awesome environment!”
Things really get tougher in the Big Ten where Minnesota drew some of the league’s best teams twice.
“Of course our conference schedule is always extremely challenging. Opening with four of six on the road will be daunting. The key, as always, is protecting our home court.
“Let's get back to making the Barn one of the most feared places to play in the Big Ten. It's our responsibility to give our loyal fans something to be proud of again. Many stuck by us last year. That is something we greatly appreciate.”
Reggie and Akeem
Illinois State transfer Reggie Lynch is in his fourth year as a college basketball player and Akeem Springs will be taking part in his fifth. They were the two players that Coach Pitino wasn’t able to evaluate this summer because they weren’t here (Springs was still at UW-Milwaukee and Lynch is recovering from shoulder surgery).
Both are guys that many project to start this year with Lynch at center and Springs at shooting guard.
“Two new guys who I was unable to evaluate in the summer time were Akeem Springs and Reggie Lynch. I expect both to make an immediate impact.
“Reggie catches everything down low. He has a very unorthodox but effective offensive game, as well as great shot blocking timing.
“I am very excited about Akeem Springs! When I explain certain things to him in practice he picked it up like a pro. He's older, experienced and has a Big Ten ready body. Both Reggie and Akeem should play major minutes.”
· A topic that the Gopher Basketball team has covered several times in interviews and releases is how well they did this off-season in the classroom. The team had a grade point average of 3.2 and the freshmen led the way with a 3.8 gpa according to coach Pitino. Dupree McBrayer was named student of the month.
· Off-Season Speakers this year were: “(The) speakers consisted of Walter Bond, John Thomas, Sandra MacDonald, Target HR employees, members of the Aurora Center on campus, Kris Humphries and Kevin Eastman,” said Coach Pitino.
· Pitino on Athletics Village: “It has been fun watching Athletes Village grow right in front of our eyes. I have a great view outside of my office and I can say it's going to be a game changer. Every program is going to be impacted immensely. Recruits have been blown away by the renderings.”