Lane leads Seton Hall into

by Mark Heller

If recruiting had fallen into place differently in the past couple of years, Minnesota’s starting lineup could be Darius Lane, Troy Bell, Khalid El-Amin, Dusty Rychart and Joel Przybilla.
That’s a far-fetched idea to say the least, but the Gophers had at least a shred of potential to keep the three in-state recruits who left.
Instead, El-Amin (Connecticut), Bell (Boston College) and Lane (Seton Hall) all went to the Big East, where they have led their respective teams to winning seasons.
Minnesota (12-11) will only get to see one of those three prodigies this season. The Gophers were forced to sandwich in a nonconference game against Seton Hall (18-6) tonight.
Lane, a starter for the Pirates, is a graduate of Totino-Grace High School in Brooklyn Center. He was recruited by Clem Haskins, but some academic concerns prompted Haskins to shy away and Seton Hall grabbed him.
There’s a new one. Haskins shying away because of academics?
“He was concerned with my ACTs,” Lane said. “He was waiting on my ACT scores. I talked to him in August and he said he was concerned, but later he offered me a scholarship.”
He sat out his freshman campaign, but the 6-foot-4, 223-pound guard is a leading candidate for surprise player of the year.
“Having sat out last year was a tough thing for Darius to deal with,” coach Tommy Amaker said. “We had a little saying with him, ‘Let’s get something out of it instead of getting through it.’
“I think he really tried to get something out of it, although at certain moments, it can be very tough for a kid to lose a year of basketball not being able to play and only practicing. I think he matured and he didn’t take it for granted anymore.”
Lane anchors a formidable triple threat in the Pirates backcourt. The three little men combine to average 40 of the team’s 72 points per game.
But Minnesota coach Dan Monson has some other concerns, too. As the team begins to move on from the past two weeks, Minnesota is forced to re-evaluate what it has and what it can do to finish the season strong. With perhaps slightly less at stake in the standings, a nonconference game is one chance to play with the lineup.
“This is like a new season for us with our personnel changes,” Gophers coach Dan Monson said. “There’s that side of the coin where you say, ‘Hey, we need a preseason game to figure some things out and try some new things.'”
Not a bad idea following the loss of 40 percent of the team’s original starting lineup and a 36-point loss to Purdue. Also among the reforming will be a new starting lineup. Mitch Ohnstad and Ryan Wildenborg will start instead of Kevin Burleson and Kyle Sanden.
“I think it will give us more experience inside with Kyle coming off the bench who can only go limited minutes anyway,” Monson said. “We’ll see if Ohnstad can get us started better and Burleson can settle us down better. As a coach, you’re expecting players to do everything they can right now to find success at the end of the year, and I don’t think I’m doing my job if I don’t try different things, too.”
For a team that needs all the practice time it can get in these last three weeks of the season, Monson isn’t thrilled about having to play a ranked nonconference team. For a change, Seton Hall actually presents an on-the-court problem for a team that has plenty off the court.
“Life is not judged by when everything is going good, how you respond,” Monson said.
“Life is about handling adversity when you’re dealt something and how you handle it. This is a good character test for us in this program. There’s no guarantees that we can win a game the rest of the season, and there’s no guarantees that we can’t. That’s very much like life.”

Mark Heller covers men’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]