Men’s hoops inks two, prepares for Mercer

Jabari Ritchie

With its season opener just three days away, Minnesota’s men’s basketball team looked even further into the future Wednesday as the Gophers received signed letters of intent from two recruits.

Forward Stan Gaines Jr. from Providence St. Mel High School in Chicago, and center Aliou Kane from Blue Ridge Academy in Dyke, Va., both committed to play for Minnesota next season.

Kane, originally from Mauritania, is a consensus top-100 recruit and Gaines was a three-time all-Illinois selection.

“(Gaines) is not as finesse a player as some of our other guys,” coach Dan Monson said. “His game is more related to banging and being a physical presenceÖ and I think it will complement the wings that we have in our program now.”

Rychart pushes for win

After disappointing showings in exhibitions against the Harlem Globetrotters and Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota looks to improve in Saturday’s season opener against Mercer at Williams Arena.

The Gophers lost 79-70 to the Globetrotters on Nov. 8 and struggled in a 67-59 victory over the Bulldogs on Monday.

“We almost got beat by (Minnesota-Duluth) and we got pounded by the Globetrotters in the second half, so we’re going to come in there mentally prepared, put up a fight and hopefully come up with a big win,” Rychart said. “I mean a large amount, like 20 or 25 points.”

Monson said the exhibitions revealed several problems.

“We showed that we’re vulnerable physically – some things that we already knew – but there are also some mental things that we’ve got to work on,” he said.

Rychart, who bruised his sternum in practice last month, will likely continue to play in a flak jacket during the Gophers’ first few games. Rychart said he expects to play without the flak jacket in two to three weeks.

“I can’t be as physical as I want because I’m still a little tentative about getting hit in the back and the sternum,” he said. “You can never get used to having something wrapped around you. I’m getting a little used to it but I’d rather go without it.”

Bennett improving

Senior forward Travarus Bennett, who missed both exhibition games with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee, worked out several times this week. Monson said he hopes Bennett will be able to play limited minutes against Mercer.

Jabari Ritchie covers men’s basketball welcomes comments at [email protected]