Haskins picks U for middle of Big Ten pack

Michael Dougherty

With a bevy of big men on his roster, the last thing anyone expected to come out of Gophers men’s basketball coach Clem Haskins’ mouth Thursday was talk of outlawing the dunk.
Haskins has always been a traditionalist who preaches fundamentals and team play, and on media day he touched on a wide range of subjects — including the dunk, Kyle Sanden’s lingering dizzy spells and a would-be electrical engineer quitting the team for an 8-to-5 job.
But Haskins’ primary message was that his team will be deep, athletic and big. Haskins said he sees his team as a middle-of-the-pack squad, however, with Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue and Penn State the top four.
“Michigan State is head and shoulders above everyone else,” Haskins said. “We could be as high as fourth or fifth.”
Haskins has a trio of trees in the middle — 6-foot-11 sophomore Kyle Sanden, 6-foot-10 sophomore Antoine Broxsie and 7-foot-1 freshman Joel Pryzbilla.
According to Haskins, Sanden will open the season as the starter, and the coach said Sanden is handling the fainting spells that hindered him last season quite well.
“Kyle’s only been down once this fall,” Haskins said. “He gets fatigued and a little light-headed where he has to stop for 15 or 20 minutes, but that’s only happened one time.”
Haskins said Sanden’s condition is something the center will have to deal with for the rest of his career, and the team doctors have assured the coach Sanden is fit to play.
Along with the abundance of size, Haskins said the team has tremendous speed in the frontcourt with returning NIT tournament MVP Kevin Clark, point guard Terrance Simmons and Fairbault, Minn., native Mitch Ohnstad — players Haskins calls “some of the quickest guys in the country.”
The Gophers’ depth this season might be comparable to the 1997 Final Four team, with Haskins relying on nine and 10 players to see considerable playing time.
Last season Haskins’ bench wasn’t as deep as he would have liked, which forced him to give more minutes to walk-on Jason Stanford.
Stanford will be back this season for his final year, but his identical twin brother Jermaine will not. He announced last week he will be leaving the team.
Haskins said the electrical engineering major is close to graduating and wants to concentrate on life after basketball.
“The most important thing to me, along with seeing a guy hit a jump shot, is to see a guy get his degree,” Haskins said. “Jermaine is looking at 8-to-5 come June 1, not an NBA or CBA career, and that’s important to him.”
Another topic in Haskins’ wide-ranging press conference was his belief that the dunk shot should be outlawed in college basketball, which is about as unlikely as Mark McGwire becoming a switch-hitter.
But Haskins’ rationale has historic ties. He said legendary Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp lobbied to outlaw the dunk in sixties, primarily to stifle some of the effectiveness of a dominating center playing at UCLA named Lew Alcindor, now better known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
“You take a group of young kids here, and they all line up to dunk the basketball,” Haskins said. “Guys don’t get credit anymore for making a good two-handed chest pass or making an open 10-foot jump shot.”
Haskins used Shaquille O’Neal as a prime example of NBA players who helped make the dunk such a glamorous event.
“If I could outlaw the dunk, I would,” he said. “Guys can’t dunk their way through the NBA.”
But Haskins skirted the topic that has been on everybody’s mind the past few days — Minnesota’s Gov.-elect Jesse Ventura.
When asked what he thought of leg-locking legislator, Haskins said, “No comment, but I love Arne Carlson.”