By Myron Medcalf
A source close to the Gophers told me Tuesday that Minnesota’s freshest faces – Royce White (Hopkins), Justin Cobbs (Bishop Montgomery in Torrance, Calif.), Rodney Williams (Robbinsdale Cooper) and Trevor Mbakwe (Miami Dade C.C.) – have all looked good in pick-up games with their new teammates.
Williams’ athleticism was apparent during a Monday game, when the freshman threw down a bunch of dunks, including a couple that he caught off of the rim. He teamed up with senior Damian Johnson. The two had a lot of fun together and tossed up a bunch of alley-oops to each other.
Cobbs, a freshman point guard, looked good, too, according to the source. Although White didn’t play due to another obligation, the freshman forward has apparently surpassed the expectations of Gophers trainers with his performance in the weight room thus far.
Mbakwe, the 6-8, 240-pound junior college transfer, displayed his strength, his best asset, during the Monday game. He’s expected to start at power forward next season. The source told me that he expects the Gophers to be at the top of the nation’s leaderboards in blocked shots and rebounds.
Also, I’m told that senior Devron Bostick has really fine-tuned his body in the offseason and is in “the best shape of his life.” Entering last season, I think Bostick didn’t fully understand what it would take to excel at the Division I level, especially in a league like the Big Ten. I think it’s a good sign that he’s already re-working his body so he can compete for a spot in next season’s deep rotation.
-I spoke with Travis Busch Monday night about his decision to transfer to Colorado State. Busch said he didn’t want to talk about his options after he lost his Gophers scholarship a few months ago because he wasn’t sure if he’d get an NCAA waiver that now allows him to play at the Division I level next season. The NCAA mandates that players transferring from one Division I school to another have to sit out a year, but Busch took advantage of an NCAA clause that allows players who have graduated with additional eligibility to compete immediately at another institution.
Busch will pursue a master’s degree in business from Colorado State, his third college. He began his career at Cal-Poly before transferring to Minnesota. The Mounds View native said CSU “felt right,” especially since Rams assistant Niko Medved was on former Gophers coach Dan Monson’s staff. Had the waiver fallen through, Busch said he favored Winona State over some of his other Division II options.
With four new players joining the team and two scholarships available at the end of last season, Busch said he figured that he might lose his full ride. But he hoped his hard work would have been enough to help him keep it. He’s excited, however, to move forward with his new team.
-Ralph Sampson III’s try out for the USA Basketball U19 squad commences Tuesday night and culminates Thursday. The 6-11 sophomore center will benefit simply by competing with so many talented youngsters. If he makes the team, he’ll travel to New Zealand later this month to compete for the FIBA championship.