Przybilla absent as Gophers earn win

by David La

Exhibition games are not supposed to be very laborious.
The visitor — in Monday’s case Ural Great-Russia — is expected to come in and give the home team, in this case Minnesota, a worthy opponent.
The Gophers men’s basketball team found Ural Great to be slightly less than great, winning 84-69.
But when the final horn sounded, the real toiling began: Explanations for the absence of sophomore center Joel Przybilla.
“I excused Joel, he’s got personal issues that he wanted to get resolved,” coach Dan Monson said. “I excused him yesterday at practice, and he’s day to day. Tomorrow I’ll talk to him and see how things are going and go day to day. But we expect him back for the game on Saturday.”
Monson did not go further into the reasons for Przybilla’s absence.
“Personal issues are personal issues, and I certainly am respecting that, and I hope everybody else does,” Monson said. “He’s a great kid and he’s got some personal issues right now. I know that’s something that you don’t want to hear but he’s an 18-year-old kid.”
It remained unclear to Monson as to when his star center would return.
“I haven’t talked to him since yesterday when I let him go before practice,” Monson said. “I’m supposed to talk to him tomorrow and we’re day to day.”
Though Monson granted Przybilla space, the coach is confident in his comeback.
Monson responded with a flat, “No” when asked if he was worried about Przybilla not coming back.
Playing Przybilla-less, Minnesota looked somewhat shaky against the Russians. Before all the Przybilla talk, the Gophers were spurred to victory by John-Blair Bickerstaff.
The junior forward attacked the Ural Great zone defense with shots from the corner and drives to the hoop, dropping in 23 points.
His active style carried over to the defensive end, where Bickerstaff snatched four steals and skyed for one block.
“I think that J.B. showed not just leadership tonight, but I thought he was so much more comfortable and active now,” Monson said. “He does have great athleticism, and when you’re playing against a zone, you’ve got to have some athletes who are active and slashing. He was a huge factor to break down their zone.”
With Minnesota ahead 54-51 at the midway point of the second half, Bickerstaff went off for seven points and assisted on baskets by Terrence Simmons and Dusty Rychart. When the smoke cleared, the Gophers led 65-53 and never looked back.
As a team, Minnesota now looks ahead to what is sure to be a tumultuous week of questions about the return of Przybilla.
“Yeah, I hope so,” Bickerstaff said when asked if Przybilla would return by Saturday’s game with Texas-Arlington.

David La Vaque covers football and basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected].