Men’s basketball team led by four key players

by Adam Fink

Two didn’t play in a single game. One was only a sophomore. And the final player was already the team’s emotional source last year.

But already, Adam Boone, Ben Johnson, Moe Hargrow and Michael Bauer have established themselves as leaders on and off the court for Minnesota’s men’s basketball team.

Gophers coach Dan Monson said the difference between Minnesota making the National Invitation Tournament and NCAA tournaments last season was one or two wins.

The Gophers hope the leadership of the four translates to those extra wins and the goal of making the Big Dance for the first time since 1999.

It has already become a common occurrence at practice to see Bauer shouting at his teammates to work harder.

“We have experience,” Bauer said during Madness at Midnight on Oct. 17. “I have earned the respect of my teammates.”

Boone, who along with Johnson sat out last season after transferring, said one of the best assets about this year’s squad is the number of leaders it carries.

The junior from Minnetonka, Minn., is expected to be the starting point guard when the season begins.

“We all have been around and know what it takes,” Boone said.

Hargrow is still recovering from a broken wrist suffered over the summer. However, the St. Paul native has already seen himself take a more proactive role in helping the six underclassmen.

In the past, Hargrow said, he would be the one listening to the stories from the older players.

Three years of NIT berths have provided plenty of stories and merit for the quartet to relay.

And as the team enters the season with fewer public expectations than a season ago, the four could make the difference between an NCAA tournament bid or falling into the public’s perception of the Gophers.

“Outside of this program, we aren’t expected to do much,” Boone said. “We have the pieces to get to the next level.”

Moe cleared to practice

Hargrow, who was cleared to start shooting last Thursday, was told he could start practicing Monday after the doctors found the bone in his hand had successfully healed.

Monson said Hargrow will be worked into practices and brought along slowly.

“It’s a matter of how cautious we want to be with him,” the fifth-year Gophers coach said. “And we want to be cautious.”

Monson added that Hargrow might take part in the team’s scrimmage this Saturday and will likely see some action in the team’s Nov. 7 exhibition against Concordia-St. Paul.

Hargrow averaged 13.2 points per game last season and is the Gophers’ top returning scorer.

Predictions leave team out

The Gophers, who were predicted to finish second last year in the Big Ten, didn’t crack the media’s or coaches’ top three conference picks this year.

Michigan State was selected as the preseason Big Ten favorite, while Illinois was voted as the second place team. Wisconsin was voted the third place team.

Monson is OK with his team not garnering any recognition.

“This team has a lot to improve on,” Monson said. “We want to worry about getting ourselves ready.

“Otherwise, the (critics) will be right.”