Plenty of new faces set to hoop it up at Williams Arena

When fans stroll into storied Williams Arena for the Gophers men’s basketball team’s first exhibition game on Tuesday, they’re going to want to bring money to buy more than just a hot dog and Coke.
They’re going to need to buy a game program. This year’s Gophers team has many new, unrecognizable, faces on the roster.
The 2000-01 version of Minnesota basketball is made up of just nine scholarship players (of that, only six saw a large amount of playing time last year) and an uncharacteristic six walk-ons.
The Gophers are young, and needless to say, very inexperienced.
“If our team was in the intramural league, we would win that,” second-year coach Dan Monson said sarcastically.
Instead, Minnesota will be stuck in the Big Ten, a conference in which the Gophers won’t be considered a contender.
So before you pick up a program, here’s an early look at the players wearing Minnesota jerseys this year at The Barn.
John-Blair Bickerstaff
After missing the second half of last season with a broken leg, senior forward John-Blair Bickerstaff is back as the Gophers co-captain.
At 6-foot-6, Bickerstaff is just one of a handful of players who will be asked by Monson to play up a position. Normally a small forward, Bickerstaff will see some action at power forward.
“I’m stronger than I was last year,” he said. “That will help when I’m trying to play the ‘4’ and go down inside.”
Terrance Simmons
The only other senior on the roster, Terrance Simmons, is the team’s other co-captain. The guard was the team’s second-leading scorer last year at 11.1 points per game.
Simmons was eighth in the Big Ten in assists last season with just over four a game, and he’ll need to do the same this year in order to create scoring opportunities.
Monson said Simmons has a slight ankle sprain, but it shouldn’t keep him out of any action.
Dusty Rychart
Last year’s leading scorer (11.8 per game), Dusty Rychart, is a sign of possible bright things to come for the Gophers this year.
Rychart was a walk-on himself his freshman season, and was then awarded a scholarship for his scrappy play.
Ryan Wildenborg
At 6-foot-11, sophomore center Ryan Wildenborg is the only Gophers scholarship player over 6-foot-8.
With the departures of Joel Przybilla and Kyle Sanden, Wildenborg was thrust from third-string center to the starter.
“We’re short everywhere,” Wildenborg said. “Everyone is going to have to play spots they’re not used too.”

Michael Bauer
Redshirt freshman Mike Bauer is the man you’ll want to keep an eye on this season. After severely spraining his ankle before the season last fall, Bauer watched all but five games from the bench at The Barn.
But with a great jump-shot, Bauer looks to be the go-to guy offensively for Minnesota this year.
Kevin Burleson
As just a freshman last season, Kevin Burleson played in all 28 games for Minnesota, starting 23 of them.
This year he’s likely to keep up that role and start in the back court with Simmons.
Shane Schilling
Also a freshman last year, Shane Schilling started to contribute for the Gophers late in the season.
The experience he gained down the stretch will be valuable for the guard/forward this time around. Like Simmons, Schilling is also nursing a sore ankle.
The JUCO’s
The Gophers added a pair of junior college transfers into the mix this year. Kerwin Fleming (Chicago) and Travarus Bennett (Mississippi) will add needed depth at the guard and forward positions respectively.
But experience is something they both lack.
“It’s an adjustment for any player to come in at this level,” Monson said.
And things don’t get any easier when you’re hurt, which is the state Bennett and Fleming are in.
Monson said Bennett injured his sternum on a screen and has practiced only twice with the team. Fleming is nursing a sore hamstring, but should be ready for the first game.
The walk-ons
Six players make up the walk-on list. Five are true freshman, including Jeff Hagen of Hopkins High School.
Hagen, who Monson is leaning towards redshirting, is the younger brother of Gophers volleyball player Stephanie Hagen.

John R. Carter covers football and men’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]