By Myron Medcalf
What’s up, everyone?
In July, I had an opportunity to speak with Tubby Smith, who’s rarely available during the hectic summer months. We talked recruiting. We talked about next season’s expectations. We talked about the challenge of distributing playing time to a lot of talented guys.
What were you seeking when you signed the new recruiting class?
Smith: “Well, I was looking for some toughness, some more physical play and some depth. … We lost guys with experience.
“I thought that getting a kid like Trevor Mbakwe … he can bring that physicality to us. I thought both Royce [White] and Rodney [Williams] because they’re such talented players, wing players, [match] our style of play as well. … We get to do more defensively. That’s one of the things. … I think we found that in Justin Cobbs as well.”
Can this team make a run at a Big Ten crown?
Smith: “Obviously, Michigan State is the cream of the crop because they have so many returning players and the player of the year [Kalin Lucas] coming back, but I think that we should be a very competitive team. … So now, we’ve got to set our sights and our goals high. My expectations are improvement and for us to be better. So yes, the bar is set higher.”
You’re bringing in some talented forwards to a team that already has a lot of them. How will you handle playing time?
Smith: “It seems that way and it always seems that way, but again, guys have gotta step up and be productive and that’s yet to be seen. … A guy like [White] is probably physically ready to contribute. A guy like [Williams] probably [has] got a ways to go. He’s gotta get stronger. A kid like [Mbakwe] can step in and contribute right away. … Having said that I don’t think we had anybody average more than 25 minutes a game [last season]. So the competition will be there for the minutes.
“As they compete that will bring out the best in everybody. You never have too many players. All those guys should have a significant impact.”
Would you ever hesitate to start a freshman point guard?
Smith: “I’ve started freshmen before and certainly, I started two last year. … In the past I have done that. If [Cobbs] wins that starting position, yes.
“His neck and his shoulders … he’s a thick guy and he doesn’t mind the contact.”
With so many wings and small forwards, have you thought about redshirting Rodney Williams?
Smith: “We just got him eligible today. … He got it done, but there shouldn’t have been that type of issue.
“He might be a candidate for a [redshirt]. It depends on how he’s coming along and where he’s at academically.”
How will Bryant Allen contribute after the football season?
Smith: “I’ve had players do that. [We'll] see where he is [after the football season]. … He’s got to do a lot of things. That’s pretty demanding, football and basketball.”
-A source close to the Gophers told me that Cory Joseph’s unofficial recruiting trip to Minnesota went well. Joseph, a five-star Rivals.com recruit and the brother of Gophers sophomore guard Devoe Joseph, is a highly ranked point guard from Findlay Prep (Nev.).
His AAU coach, Ro Russell, told me that Cory’s mom is the one that the Gophers have to impress. She’s a very important part of the process.
-Minnesota officials published a Q&A with juco transfer Trevor Mbakwe on GopherSports.com Tuesday. Mbakwe, who has been accused of assaulting a woman in Miami and is awaiting an Aug. 26 court date, talks about the upcoming season, Howard Pulley summer league and the impact he believes he can have next season.
Is this a sign that the Gophers have some inside information about Mbakwe’s fate? Gophers spokesman Matt Slieter said that people shouldn’t read anything into the decision to post the Mbakwe Q&A. Slieter said he just picked one of the Q&A’s that have been completed for all of the basketball recruits and put it on the website, as scheduled.
-Former Hopkins center Anthony Diloreto gained a new lease of life and his basketball career when a court recently granted him a deferred judgment, after he was charged in a northern Wisconsin bank robbery last summer. If he stays out of trouble for the next year, the bank robbery and firearms-related charges will be dropped. His attorney, Eric Nelson, last week prosecutors amended their complaint to charge Diloreto instead with robbery and possession of burglarious tools, a felony to which he also pleaded guilty. Sentencing for that is in October.
Multiple colleges have already started calling for the 7-0, 225-pound center. I never saw him play in high school. Everything I’ve heard, however, suggests that he was a good but not great player. So how did he go from a midmajor recruit who’d signed with Cal Poly to a guy who has been pursued by Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt, St. Louis, Utah State, Utah and Temple?
“Like with a lot of bigs, as they grow, it takes so long for them to develop,” said Marquise Watts, director of Net Gain Sports, an AAU program Diloreto played for this summer. “He’s gotten more fluid and athletic. His athleticism has picked up.”
-Former Benilde-St. Margaret’s forward Armond Battle was dismissed from Tulsa Tuesday for violating team rules. The 6-7 redshirt freshman forward missed last season with a ruptured Achilles. Battle, along with former Mr. Basketball Jordan Taylor, led Benilde to a 3A state title in 2008.
-Rick Pitino is in a bad situation, after news of a 2003 affair with a woman accused of attempting to extort him broke Tuesday night. A lot of people wonder if Pitino will be penalized or terminated by Louisville. His employment contract specifically states that he can be fired for “disparaging media publicity” caused by “willful misconduct that could objectively be anticipated to bring Employee into public disripute or scandal.”
-Nebraska prep standout Elliott Eliason, a 6-11, 235-pound forward, took an unofficial visit to Minnesota Tuesday. But the Gophers, who have offered Eliason a scholarship, aren’t the front-runners for the 2010 talent. He’s also received scholarship offers from Colorado State, Nebraska, Creighton and Washington State, according to rivals.com.