Freshmen add much-needed depth to U’s talent pool

Anthony Maggio

Dan Monson is facing a dilemma he hasn’t needed to address since coming to Minnesota’s men’s basketball team in 1999: too many players, not enough minutes.

But Monson has certainly dealt with worse.

“In our program, that’s a welcome problem,” Monson said following Saturday’s scrimmage. “We went for too many years with not enough people and too many minutes for guys.”

Adding to the Gophers, depth this season are newcomers Kris Collins, Stan Gaines and Aliou Kane.

Collins, a junior college transfer from Collin County Community College, is a 6-foot-2 inch guard who led his school in scoring, assists and steals last season.

Gaines, a 6-foot-7 inch freshman, was named Illinois Class A Player of the Year by The Associated Press last year.

Kane is a lanky 6-foot-9 inch center who averaged 13 points and 10.1 rebounds during his high school career.

The trio rounds out a roster of 19 players, all of whom are still fighting for positions on the team, and none of whom are thinking about redshirting.

According to Monson, Kane is at a position that may be the toughest to crack with senior Jerry Holman in the middle and Jeff Hagen returning from his redshirt season. Still, redshirting Kane is not a frequently discussed topic.

“I’ve never even addressed it or talked to him about it or anything because right now he’s competing to play,” Monson said. “I don’t want any kids thinking about redshirting until we know if they’re able to play this year. Right now, there’s no talk about redshirting anybody.”

Collins and Gaines both play positions where Minnesota could use some help – Collins at point guard and Gaines at both forward positions.

Gaines has particularly impressed Monson with his strength and toughness as an incoming freshman, which Gaines attributes to his Chicago roots.

“I grew up playing against grown men,” Gaines said. “They don’t care about how young you are so you’ve got to bring it every day. So when I played with guys my age, it was like I was a man playing against boys.

“It’s helped me out here because guys are so much stronger and so much quicker that I just fit right in with them.”

Monson expects Gaines to be a major contributor this season, and even a potential starter down the road.

Monson also hopes Collins can be an asset this season at point guard.

“We brought him in here to be a contributor, and I think he’s got point guards skills and a good feel,” Monson said. “Next week we’ll know a lot more about him because he’s a little bit behind.”

Collins missed some early practice last week because of problems with a root canal he had done the week before.

But Collins said he is learning quickly and becoming more relaxed in the Gophers’ system.

“A lot of things on defense that we do, I did at my junior college last year,” Collins said “On offense, its just about being smart. I feel real comfortable right now learning the offense and running the offense.”

All three newcomers saw plenty of action in the team’s intrasquad scrimmage last Saturday and were effective at their positions.

But they – along with the rest of the team – still have a lot to work on before their season opener against the University of North Carolina – Asheville Nov. 24.

“All three of them are going to be good players,” Monson said. “It’s just a matter of when and how much. How they’re going to blend in this year is still too early to tell after just one week.”

Scrimmage open to public

minnesota will host a scrimmage open to the public at 6 p.m. on Saturday. The intrasquad scrimmage will be free and be held in the Sports Pavilion. Enter through the main Sports Pavilion entrance off 4th Street.