By Myron Medcalf
For years, Howard Pulley’s pro-am summer league has given basketball fans a chance to see some of the top local players compete in what really amounts to high-level pick up ball.
For Gophers fans, it’s a chance to see the team’s newcomers and returning players compete together in a very laid back atmosphere. The league kicks off Monday night at the Salvation Army in downtown St. Paul and ends in mid-July.
I had my first experience with Howard Pulley last year. I couldn’t attend as many games as I wanted to because of the birth of my daughter. But it was fun to watch a lot of the old school stars and new blood compete together.
It’s no different this year. Minnesota’s newest players (Royce White, Rodney Williams, Trevor Mbakwe, Justin Cobbs and walk-on Dominique Dawson) are all expected to compete in the league.
FYI: Don’t expect every guy to show up every night. Minnesota’s freshmen have summer school, so they’ll probably miss games, but if they show up, it’ll be a lot of fun for spectators. FYI No. 2: Don’t believe the hype. It’s easy for a guy to look good in this kind of setting. The combination of few set plays, a lack of real officiating and a lot of emphasis on entertaining fans creates a setting that can allow guys to look better than they really are.
Travis Busch and Devron Bostick were two of the best players in last summer’s Howard Pulley league. I watched Bostick drop 30-plus and I figured to myself: “Tubby Smith has found a scoring wing with great size … dangerous.” Wrong. Bostick struggled last season when it was time to get in the playbook and utilize real defense. Busch gave the Gophers quality minutes but never really found a place in the rotation and now, he’s on his way to Colorado State, after losing his scholarship.
(Busch will play for El-Amin Fish House in the Howard Pulley summer league.)
Don’t get me wrong. A lot of the players you see in Howard Pulley can really compete. But I learned last summer that you can’t judge players by their performances in a pro-am league, regardless of how good or bad they look.
Current Gophers playing in Howard Pulley league
El-Amin Fish House (Devron Bostick, Paul Carter)
A&A Millwork (Al Nolen, Colton Iverson)
B 2 X (Rodney Williams, Blake Hoffarber, Dominique Dawson … Lawrence Westbrook???)
Errol Carlstrom Playaz (Devoe Joseph, Trevor Mbakwe)
TRP Group (Ralph Sampson III, Justin Cobbs, Damian Johnson)
Hudson Enterprises (Royce White)
-I’m not sure what happened during Sampson’s tryout for the national U19 squad in Colorado Springs, Colo., last week. I talked to him about an hour before he was cut from the squad and he told me he felt like he played well and maintained a good attitude throughout the audition.
“I found a brand new confidence in myself and my game,” he told me last week. “I gained more confidence. … Coming in next season, I feel [it'll be a] completely different story.”
Sampson told me that he struggled with the altitude in Colorado. That may have contributed to his sluggish ways. I’m not surprised that Sampson “looked bored.” That’s just the way he is. He’s on the All-I-Don’t-Look-Like-I-Really-Want-To-Be-Here team. He’s joined by Greg Oden (Portland Trailblazers), Charlie Villanueva (Milwaukee Bucks), Goran Suton (former Michigan State power forward) and Trevon Hughes (Wisconsin).
-A lot of collegiate teams have released their non-conference skeds in recent weeks. Don’t expect news from the Gophers for a few months. Team spokesman Matt Slieter told me that the Gophers will not release their nonconference schedule until the entire slate is booked in August.