Reasons for the departure of former guard Kevin Nathaniel from the Minnesota men’s basketball teams remain a bit of a mystery to coach Dan Monson.
Following the Valparaiso game on Saturday, Nathaniel — who suffered a foot injury that kept him from playing so far this season — announced in a University press release that he left the team for an employment opportunity in Illinois.
Monson said on Monday that he had not spoken to Nathaniel personally, but that, “He did leave me a nice voice mail.”
According to Monson, the employment opportunity allows Nathaniel to earn an income as well as getting his education paid for.
“This is a tough time for these kids and whatever is best for them, certainly that’s got to come first before what’s better for the program,” Monson said. “If this is the best thing for Kevin, then I support it.”
Nathaniel, 23, came to the Minnesota program from a three-year stint at the Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. While at the base, Nathaniel was a military police officer that specialized in working with canines.
“I assume he got pretty frustrated having to sit out,” Monson said. “He had a great career opportunity, his foot wasn’t healing properly, and there was a lot of frustration from what’s gone on here in the past.”
For Nathaniel, an Academic All-Big Ten selection last year, the last two months were tumultuous ones. In October, Nathaniel suffered the loss of his grandfather, and on the evening of Midnight Madness, two of Nathaniel’s close friends were struck by a drunk driver on the way up from Texas.
For Monson, Nathaniel’s departure is another in a growing list of distractions for the team early this season. But he cautioned that, “We haven’t even come close to scratching the surface of the ups and downs yet. We’ve still got to face every Big Ten school on the road with every term paper waving at us.
“All these kids are still dealing with a lot of things. Who knows if were done with the fallout of what’s happened around here or not.”
Bauer coming back
Freshman forward Mike Bauer took several jump shots before practice Monday, looking very unhindered by the dislocated foot he sustained in early November.
Bauer said he feels “about 90 percent right now,” and that he will attempt to get through a full practice later this week.
Whether or not Bauer will redshirt this season remains to be seen. Monson said Bauer can play in 20 percent of the first 14 games of the season, exhibition included. Bauer has not played in any games this season.
David La Vaque covers men’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]