Recapping another eventful month for Gophers men’s basketball

Roster turnover continued in late April and throughout May for the Gophers’ men’s basketball team.

Gopher head coach Richard Pitino looks down the court on Tuesday, March 5 at Williams Arena.

Tony Saunders

Gopher head coach Richard Pitino looks down the court on Tuesday, March 5 at Williams Arena.

Nick Jungheim

As June begins, the outlook for the Gophers’ men’s basketball team in 2020-21 is beginning to come into focus. A pivotal offseason that ensued following the 2019-20 campaign’s abrupt end has held multiple twists and surprises for the team. Here is a recap of what has transpired for head coach Richard Pitino’s program over the past six weeks.

Peterson commits, changes mind

When Rice transfer Drew Peterson committed to Minnesota on April 27, it appeared the team’s roster was set for the upcoming season. However, just five days later, Peterson announced that he was reopening his recruitment.

That later announcement came on the heels of the NCAA’s decision May 1 to not begin implementing a one-time exemption in 2020-21 that would allow transfers to become eligible immediately. Peterson, who averaged 11.1 points per game last season, announced he was committing to Southern California on May 11.

Greenlee enters transfer portal

Guard Bryan Greenlee announced May 9 that he too was entering the transfer portal. Greenlee became the second member of the 2019-20 roster to announce his intention to transfer. Guard Payton Willis entered the portal as a grad transfer in April, eventually signing with the College of Charleston.

As a freshman Greenlee saw limited action, making 19 appearances as a reserve, totaling 48 minutes played. He attempted just eight field goals on the season, making two.

Mailhot named new assistant

On May 18, Pitino announced he filled the vacancy at assistant coach, hiring Jeff Mailhot, who previously served as an assistant at Iona. There had been a vacancy on Pitino’s staff since late March, when Western Illinois hired Rob Jeter as its new head coach.

“Jeff is a perfect fit for our program,” Pitino said in a statement. “He has advanced through all levels of basketball and has a proven reputation as a recruiter and hard worker. In addition to his coaching experience, he is a Minnesota native and has a great understanding of Gopher basketball. We are excited to add Jeff to our staff.” 

Mailhot, a Minneapolis native, has over a decade of experience coaching at different levels of basketball. He coached his alma mater Hopkins High School to a state championship in 2009 before becoming an assistant in the junior college ranks. He then spent two seasons with New Mexico State before joining Iona’s staff last season.

Mutaf chooses Gophers

David Mutaf, an incoming first-year student, announced on social media his verbal commitment to Minnesota last week. Mutaf, a 3-star recruit according to 247Sports, comes to the Gophers by way of Istanbul, Turkey.

According to scouting reports, Mutaf is a 3-point shooting specialist, giving Minnesota an asset on the wing. He was also credited for his feel for the game and decision making on the court.

Looking ahead: scheduling

Whether the 2020-21 season proceeds as normal remains to be seen in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Gophers have already scheduled some opponents for next year. Most notably, last week the team announced a home-and-home series with Mississippi State. Minnesota will host the Bulldogs on Dec. 16.

Finalizing Roster

The Gophers now have one scholarship remaining for the 2020-21 season. An additional scholarship spot could open up if guard Marcus Carr, who declared for the NBA draft but did not hire an agent, decides to remain draft eligible instead of returning. The original deadline for a decision was June 3 but was extended to June 15, as the date of the NBA draft is expected to be delayed. It is currently scheduled for June 25.

Athletes returning to campus

Last week, the NCAA announced that student-athletes can return to campus for voluntary team activities starting June 1. Several schools have already announced student-athletes will return on that date, including a fellow Big Ten university in Nebraska.

The Gophers have not yet announced when student-athletes will return to campus. Pitino recently told the Star Tribune he is working with athletics director Mark Coyle to determine when his players will return and in what capacity.