Men’s hoops prepares for exhibition game with Globetrotters

Jabari Ritchie

While their name evokes images of off-court antics and on-court showboating, the Harlem Globetrotters, whom Minnesota men’s basketball team kicks off its exhibition season against, are a serious team.

The Globetrotters, who will face the Gophers on Thursday night at Williams Arena, are composed of former college standouts, some of whom were members of the NBA and other professional leagues.

Harlem beat Iowa 79-76 on Wednesday night.

“Everybody didn’t understand that,” Minnesota guard Kevin Burleson said. “A lot of people have been asking me, ‘Are they going to be throwing water at you and doing tricks?’ Ö This is a good team that wants to win. It’s good that we’re playing them early because I think it’s going to help with our development.”

The Globetrotters, one of two teams Minnesota hosts before its Nov. 17 season opener against Mercer, won 284 consecutive games before falling to Western Kentucky last Saturday. The Gophers are the fourth of nine teams Harlem plays on its fall college tour.

“Everybody’s pretty anxious and excited to get this underway,” Burleson said. “We’ve been practicing for the last three weeks against each other and quite frankly everyone’s tired of playing against each other. We want to play against a different team.”

Minnesota will look to put some pieces together with Thursday’s game and Monday’s exhibition against Minnesota-Duluth.

“Exhibitions are to answer some questions,” coach Dan Monson said. “We’ve got a lot of questions and hopefully, after the game, we’ll have less Ö What we’re trying to do is iron out the wrinkles before they actually count.”

Monson will see how his players defend against the bigger Globetrotters. Harlem has five players who are 6-foot-10-inches or taller, including 7-foot-4-inch center Keith Closs.

“We need to work on our rebounding and just the little things that help make you a good team,” said sophomore forward Michael Bauer. “Once we get that stuff worked in and ironed out, I think we’re going to be a pretty solid team.”

Bauer said he has seen improvement since the Gophers started practicing in October.

“This week’s probably been our best week,” he said Wednesday. “We’ve been a lot more upbeat, a lot more excited and a lot more ready for what’s going on.

“Our team’s starting to learn who we are and starting to trust our coaches more. That’s what we need to do right now and I think that it will happen even more once we get a feeling for how far we need to go in a game situation.”

ï Senior forward Travarus Bennett is expected to miss both exhibition games and about a week of practice after injuring his left knee Tuesday.

Bennett, who averaged 19 minutes per game last season, sprained his medial collateral ligament when he collided with a teammate in practice.

“The one thing about Travarus being out is it gives an opportunity for guys like Steve Esselink to play,” Monson said. “Travarus has experience and we know what he’s going to do. We’re waiting to see what Steve and the new guys will do.”

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