Youth won’t be an excuse for Gophers

Minnesota has five freshmen and four sophomores on its roster this season.

Minnesota guard Nate Mason drives the ball to the basket in the second half against the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Feb. 21 in Madison, Wis.

Amanda Snyder, Daily File Photo

Minnesota guard Nate Mason drives the ball to the basket in the second half against the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Feb. 21 in Madison, Wis.

Ryan Falk

Men’s basketball head coach Richard Pitino will finally bring out a roster almost entirely his own this season.
 
All but one player on the team’s roster has come in under Pitino and his staff, including four sophomores and six new freshmen. But Pitino said he’s not planning to use his team’s inexperience as a crutch. 
 
“[Our youth] is an excuse that’s not going to be used,” Pitino said. “We’ve got a lot of pieces in play, and I think it’s got a chance to be a very good team.”
 
The Gophers have 10 available players this year, Pitino said, including four of the team’s freshmen.
 
“Every single one of them really needs to play,” Pitino said. “I know this, after being in the Big Ten for two years, Ohio State does not care what our age is; Michigan State does not care, so we better be ready.” 
 
Freshman guard Kevin Dorsey said despite his youth, Pitino has been looking for him to take an active role right away.
 
“[The freshman] have to be ready, so [Pitino] pushes us every day like we’re juniors and seniors,” Dorsey said.
 
The freshmen aren’t the only players that will need to step up for the Gophers. Minnesota will need to lean on its two seniors, forward Joey King and senior guard Carlos Morris, to succeed.
 
“When it comes down to it, all of us have to produce,” King said. “There’s a lot of players on this team that I think can do a lot for this program.”
 
King said he’s trying to share whatever he can to help the freshmen get ready to contribute right away.
 
“Anything I can teach these guys to help them grow as a player I just try and shed on them,” King said.
 
Sophomore guard Nate Mason also returns after a good freshman year, scoring in double digits 17 times. Mason said despite the team’s inexperience, it has the talent to be successful.
 
“I feel like we’ve got all the tools to be good,” Mason said. “We just have to be mature and come out to play each and every day.”
 
Richard Pitino defends father
 
Richard Pitino came to the defense of his father Rick Pitino, — the head basketball coach at the University of Louisville — on Wednesday following allegations that a former Cardinals staff member paid for an escort service for players.
 
The allegations came to light after a book was released with first-hand accounts from a former escort, who said former Louisville operations director Andre McGee ran an escort service from 2010 to 2014.
 
Richard Pitino was the associate head coach at Louisville for the 2011-12 season.
 
“At the end of the day, I know that [Rick Pitino] had zero knowledge of any of those alleged things,” Richard Pitino said.
 
Richard Pitino said he offered support and advice to his father recently. 
 
“I told him this: ‘Put your head on the pillow at night and know that you did nothing wrong and that you certainly had no knowledge of this,’ ” Richard Pitino said.