Roster likely set for men’s hoops team

by Jabari Ritchie

Already looking to improve on this season’s sixth-place Big Ten finish with a solid class of recruits and redshirted players coming in, the University of Minnesota men’s basketball team addressed one of its largest concerns on Monday.

By adding 6-foot-2 guard Kristopher Collins, who played at Collin County Community College in Plano, Texas, the Gophers added depth to a backcourt that appeared to be Minnesota’s biggest question mark.

The Gophers lost senior guards Travarus Bennett – the co-Big Ten defensive player of the year – and Kerwin Fleming, but will add point guard Ben Johnson, who was a standout at Northwestern from 1999-2001.

“I just think it gives us another dimension,” said coach Dan Monson. “The one thing Kris does is he gives us a different type of player than what’s in our other guards. He’s very strong, he can beat people off the dribble and he can shoot from the perimeter.”

Junior co-captain Kevin Burleson, who led the team with 4.7 assists per game, is the only starting guard returning for Minnesota. Burleson, who split time with Fleming at point guard, started 19 contests.

The Gophers other two recruits – incoming freshmen Stan Gaines and Aliou Kane – will be added to a talented group of forwards including conference freshman of the year Rick Rickert, sophomore captain Michael Bauer, team blocks leader Jerry Holman, and Jeff Hagen, who was redshirted after the 2000-2001 season. Senior captain Dusty Rychart is the team’s only departing forward.

While Minnesota had excellent depth in the front court this season, the lack of a pure point guard was a concern for the Gophers. Before Burleson and Fleming moved from the shooting guard position this year, freshman Aaron Robinson was the only point guard on the team. Johnson and Collins can both play at point guard.

“Not only did we lose Kerwin and Travarus, but we also lost Shane Schilling last year,” Monson said. “[Steve] Esselink and [Moe] Hargrow both play the small forward and guard, but as far as pure guards, the only ones we really had in our program were Ben Johnson, Kevin Burleson and Aaron Robinson.”

Monson said the Gophers roster is likely set for 2002 and that he does not plan on redshirting any players going into next season.

“We have one more scholarship to go,” he said. “There’s a chance we could bring in a transfer or something of that nature, but I think for next year’s team this is probably going to be it.”

Jabari Ritchie welcomes comments at [email protected]