U hoops hopes to shake ‘surprise’ label

by Michael Dougherty

A stigma is a tough thing to shake. Ask the Minnesota men’s basketball team.
It took the team around seven months to remove the term “scandal-ridden” from its name, and now the only undefeated team in the Big Ten is labeled the “surprising” Gophers basketball team.
Coach Dan Monson was asked after Saturday’s 91-77 win against Maine whether he thought his team deserved the “surprising” label.
“I think we have to take it game by game, and this is a game we should win, and that’s how I’ve felt before every game we’ve played this year, and I think our kids have too,” Monson said.
The Sporting News and The Basketball News both picked the Gophers to finish 10th in the Big Ten, ahead of only lowly Northwestern.
Despite the low expectations from the media, the team has impressed the public during its six-game win streak. Look at the conference statistics and you will find the Gophers at the top of the field-goal percentage (54 percent), assists (19.3 per game) and blocked shots (seven per game).
Monson said the team has been pretty comfortable playing at home, so the first road game will be quite a test. He stresses the one-game-at-a-time attitude to keep his players focused.
“We’ve got to go to Oregon with that mentality and we just left 14,000 people behind, and now it’s just us,” he said. “We’ve got to go there understanding that.”
Center Joel Przybilla summed up the team’s attitude simply. “Everyone is shocked but us,” he said.

Gophers in the pros
Former coach Clem Haskins left the University amid the allegations of academic fraud. He bolted to the pastures of his farm in Kentucky with a $1.5 million check. While his exit left both the basketball team and the University with a black eye, some of his former players have moved on to greener pastures.
ùBobby Jackson (1995-97) A reserve guard for the Timberwolves. He is playing about 14 minutes per game and is averaging 5.2 points per game, 2.9 assists per game and 2.6 rebounds per game.
ù Quincy Lewis (1995-99) Drafted by Utah in the first round in June, Lewis plays about eight minutes a game in a reserve role for the Jazz. He’s scoring 2.2 points per game.
ù John Thomas (1993-97) Plays about seven minutes a game for the Toronto Raptors. Thomas is averaging 1.4 ppg, and one rebound per game.
ù Voshon Lenard (1991-95) Scores 10.1 ppg, coming off the bench for the Miami Heat. He also is averaging 2.9 rpg and 2.1 apg.
ù Miles Tarver (1995-99) Plays for the St. Louis Storm in the International Basketball League. He’s averaging 3.8 ppg, and 3.1 rpg, playing for Bernie Bickerstaff, father of current Gophers forward John-Blair Bickerstaff.
ù Courtney James (1995-97) A reserve for the Cincinnati Stuff of the IBL and scores 3.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg.
ù Trevor Winter (1993-97) Tried out with the Timberwolves but didn’t make it. He then signed on with the Sioux Falls Skyforce but was later cut. Winter is scurrently weighing offers from other minor-league teams.
ù Sam Jacobson (1994-98) Requested to be released by the Los Angeles Lakers last month. Chicago, Indiana and Orlando are teams that have interest in him right now. He is expected to sign with a team in the next week.
ù Townsend Orr (1990-95) Plays guard for the Fargo-Moorhead Beez of the IBL.

Michael Dougherty covers football and men’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]