Humphries not your average freshman

Gophers freshman Kris Humphries has been named the Big Ten’s player of the week twice.

Adam Fink

Most freshmen play small roles their rookie seasons, and are usually relegated to sparse playing time while being told to watch and learn.

If they’re lucky, they will make a small impact.

Nothing could be further from the truth for Minnesota men’s basketball freshman Kris Humphries.

In only six games, the forward has quickly made the transition from high school to the college game, and established himself as the Gophers’ most dominant offensive threat.

Heading into tonight’s game against Oral Roberts, Humphries will be the central factor in determining how Minnesota (4-2) finishes the preseason schedule and whether the Gophers start strong in the Big Ten.

Humphries averages 24.3 points and 11.8 rebounds, and he has twice been named the Big Ten’s player of the week.

“I didn’t think I would be this ready right away,” Humphries said Tuesday after posting his fifth double-double (points-rebounds) in six games following a win over Long Beach State.

Entering college, Humphries’ goal was lofty: average a double-double, lead the Big Ten in rebounding and break every major Minnesota rebounding record.

Humphries is on pace to achieve those goals for several reasons.

First, the 6-foot-9-inch post player can shoot from all over the court, evident by making two three pointers earlier in the year.

Second, Humphries has shown poise on both ends of the court, which is uncharacteristic of many freshmen.

“He’s unstoppable when he gets the ball on his terms,” Gophers coach Dan Monson said. “He’s a great finisher around the basket.”

Third, the rookie has shown a knack for taking what the defense gives him.

For example, Long Beach State coach Larry Reynolds tried two types of players on Humphries, both to no avail.

“We were guarding him with a guy that was 6-foot-6, and he just shot over him,” Reynolds said. “We put a bigger guy on him in the second half, and he just went around him.”

Humphries’ ability to control the paint has helped other aspects of the team.

Since the Gophers’ opponents have geared up on stopping Humphries through double teams, Minnesota’s guards have found themselves with more room to work.

“I don’t think anybody thought he was this good,” guard Moe Hargrow said. “It opens it up for us. It’s a guard’s dream.”

Highly regarded coming out of Hopkins High School, Humphries was considered one of the top players in the nation as a senior.

Only six months after graduating, Humphries is giving the Gophers an offensive low post presence not felt in recent memory.

“If he gets the ball in the low block, it is a bucket or foul 95 percent of the time,” guard Ben Johnson said.

In addition, Monson has praised Humphries’ footwork.

But the Gophers’ fifth-year coach said the Chaska, Minn., native still needs to improve his defense. He has been forced to sit at times after picking up two first-half fouls.

While Humphries has impressive statistics, the real test will come in the Big Ten season.

By January, most coaches will have enough game film to analyze Humphries’ habits and determine what hasn’t worked in defending him.

In addition, Big Ten coaches have rosters composed of more physical players to adequately match up with Humphries.

The Big Ten, considered one of the most physical conferences in the nation, will present a challenge every game for Humphries.

And his play likely will determine whether the Gophers make the leap from NIT to NCAA tournament berths.

Even he admits it might not be easy.

“I thought I would struggle more,” Humphries said. “(But) one could still come.”