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Bauer’s persistence rewarded with captaincy

Michael Bauer has struggled on the basketball court recently, but the Minnesota forward has seen worse.

Despite shooting just 22 percent from the field after leading Minnesota in scoring through its first three games, Bauer isn’t worried about his scoring slump. Before he ever played a game at Williams Arena, the sophomore tri-captain had to overcome bad luck with the Gophers.

Not only did he commit to Minnesota shortly before the program’s 1999 academic fraud scandal broke out, but Bauer’s first two seasons were cut short by injuries.

“I never thought of going anywhere else,” said Bauer, who was injured in Minnesota’s seventh conference game last season and took a medical redshirt after playing five games in 1999.

“After the whole final decision came out, I knew that everything would still be fine and that I still wanted to be here. But there was a point where I had to at least think about the option of going somewhere else. There was the potential for very, very serious probation and penalties for what happened before.”

Now, Bauer is not only healthy, but his team is finally clear of NCAA sanctions.

“We’ve got a really good team this year,” he said. “It’s really exciting for me to go out there and play as hard and as well as I can and do it with a supporting cast and a team that wants to win.”

Cold shooting

In the 30 games he played in before being held to three points and no field goals in a loss to UNC-Wilmington earlier this season, Bauer posted few poor outings. He averaged 11 points per game and scored in double figures twice.

Until scoring three or fewer points against UNC-Wilmington, Georgia and Oregon, Bauer had never gone three straight games without a 10-point game.

“He’s staying positive,” senior forward Dusty Rychart said about his fellow captain. “Mike’s going to get through it because he’s a positive guy and he works so hard. So does everyone else on this team.”

Bauer compared his shooting slump with the team’s recent troubles. Minnesota has lost three of its past five and the Gophers struggled in wins over Oregon and Texas-Pan American.

“It’s just a sign of what our team is going through right now,” he said. “It’s kind of frustrating and it’s kind of hard to get your shots open, but once it starts falling it will fall. I’m not really worried about my shot.”

Although most of his shots haven’t found the net, Bauer did block five shots and grab 16 rebounds over the last three games.

“He’s struggled with his jump shot, but I thought he played well on Monday,” coach Dan Monson said. “Mike Bauer’s too good of a shooter to be in a slump. If he gets good shots, he’ll make his share.”

Honored with captaincy

When Gophers players gathered to vote on their three captains earlier this year, Bauer, Rychart and junior guard Kevin Burleson were elected almost unanimously.

As a captain, Bauer has been given the responsibility of helping break in the Gophers highly-touted recruits – all four of whom have averaged at least seven minutes per game. Freshman Rick Rickert leads the team in minutes and points.

“He’s been with the program a while now and people respect him,” Rickert said about Bauer. “We’ve been working together. He’s a terrific captain and a real solid leader.”

The three captains are the only Minnesota players to join the team before the scandal. But unlike Rychart and Burleson, who have combined for five complete seasons, Bauer appeared in just 25 games before this season.

“That might be one of the first times a sophomore has ever been named captain here,” said Bauer, who turned 20 in August. “I put a lot of work into helping turn this program around, just like the coaches and a lot of the other players. I’m glad that my teammates have honored me.

“I knew there would be good things at the end and light at the end of the tunnel. I didn’t know if it would be as good of a team as we have now, but I knew good things would come and I’m really happy that I’m sticking with it.”

Jabari Ritchie covers men’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]

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