Tubby: Team is “best shooting group” he’s seen at Minnesota

Charlie Armitz

In his 15-minute session with the media Monday afternoon, Tubby Smith told reporters that this year’s Gophers men’s basketball team is the “best shooting group I’ve had in a long time … no question about it.”

Minnesota graduated Blake Hoffarber, the program’s all-time leader in 3-point field goals, last season. But Smith, now in his fifth season as head coach of the Gophers, said this year’s team is the better at outside shooting than any of his previous Minnesota teams.

The Gophers add four perimeter threats this season in Oto Osenieks, Julian Welch, Joe Coleman, and Andre Hollins.

Osenieks redshirted the 2010-11 season, while Welch is a junior college transfer. Coleman and Hollins are true freshmen expected to receive significant playing time in 2011-12.

“I don’t see any issues with the outside shooting at all,” Smith said. “We were limited to just one [shooter] last year when we lost Devoe [Joseph]. None of our freshmen really stepped up. But now with [Osenieks], we’ve got four shooters that we didn’t have last year.”

Smith also addressed the team’s health, saying that redshirt freshman center Elliott Eliason and junior forward Andre Ingram have returned to practice, but that sophomore forward Mo Walker, who tore his posterior cruciate ligament last December, is “not going to do much playing for a while.”

He said the point guard position is still up for grabs. Minnesota has three contenders for that spot in Welch, Hollins and sophomore Maverick Ahanmisi.

The Gophers play their first exhibition game Nov. 1 against Bemidji State.

Regular season play begins at home against Bucknell on Nov. 11.