Academic problems put Przybilla on bench

Mark Heller

In his six months as Minnesota men’s basketball coach, Dan Monson still has debris of the Clem Haskins hurricane to plow through.
First the Gophers lost 45 percent of last season’s scoring output. Then his backup center was declared academically ineligible for the first half of the season.
And now the biggest blow.
Moments before practice began Tuesday, Monson received word from John Blanchard, the University’s director of academic services, that sophomore center Joel Przybilla is suspended indefinitely for what Monson called a “continued lack of academic commitment.”
Monson indicated this should not have come as a shock to Przybilla, who apparently has had problems with academics since Monson took over the program.
“I’ve met with him before, and he knew that this was the consequence if he didn’t meet the key rules on academics,” Monson said, “and he hasn’t fulfilled his obligations.”
Monson said Przybilla had “plenty” of warnings regarding his academic standing. He wouldn’t comment on the specifics of what constituted the lack of commitment, but indicated it was more than one factor.
He also declined to talk about what it would take for Przybilla to regain eligibility, but said that Przybilla knew what it would take.
The Gophers have just three weeks left before the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament, the end of this year’s season.

Przybilla is academically eligible to play under NCAA guidelines, but not under Monson and Minnesota’s guidelines.
The team held a meeting before practice and was told of the suspension by Monson. Players were instructed not to comment on Przybilla, but point guard Terrance Simmons did acknowledge that it was a “tough day.”
Przybilla was unavailable for comment.
Kyle Sanden will likely start for Przybilla on Thursday against Illinois.
Monson has now lost his leading scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker, as well as last week’s Big Ten player of the week for the second time this season. Przybilla was averaging 14.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.9 blocks per game.
But in the interest of “cleaning house” and slowly attempting to restore private and public confidence in the team after Haskins, there was little choice in the matter.
“I’m upset about it mostly because I feel like this team deserves everyone to be committed on and off the court,” Monson said. “There’s more to putting on a jersey than just playing basketball.
“As long as I’m running this program, there’s going to be accountability.”

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