Gophers hope to move on with Mexico

Michael Dougherty

An exhibition game with a little less punching — that’s what Gophers basketball coach Dan Monson wants to see tonight when his team takes the court for the first time against a team of Mexican all-stars.
In last year’s exhibition game with the Philippine National Team, a brawl broke out in front of the visitors’ bench and guard Terrance Simmons and former forward Miles Tarver were ejected. Simmons was later absolved because the officials mistakenly tossed him out.
Monson said he has warned his team numerous times this year to have thicker skin. He also said the scandal involving the alleged fraud investigation, “puts a target on our chest.”
The first-year coach all but guaranteed there would be no fisticuffs in tonight’s game.
“I’d be very surprised if we had an incident like that (tonight),” Monson said.
Of greater concern for Monson and the team is the loss of freshman forward Mike Bauer, who injured his left ankle in a scrimmage Saturday. Bauer is expected to miss up to four weeks, but called the injury “no big deal.”
He said he came down on somebody’s foot and felt a pop. Bauer broke his right foot in high school, but said he has never had a problem with his left ankle.
Monson said the loss of Bauer is going to hurt the team and called the 6-foot-8 forward one of the most excitable players he has seen. Bauer was expected to make the biggest impact of the three freshmen (Bauer; guard/forward Shane Schilling; and center Ryan Wildenborg).
“There’s no question he’s a little bit ahead physically, and he was the one freshman that probably had a chance to make the biggest impact this season” Monson said of Bauer. “There hasn’t been a kid that’s worked harder in the off-season. With every day out here he has improved.”
Like Monson and the freshmen, forward John-Blair Bickerstaff will be making his Gophers debut. The 6-foot-6 junior said Bauer’s injury has set the team back a little.
“It’s sad, especially because the guy works so hard,” Bickerstaff said. “The guys around him are going to have to pick up the slack, because not just one guy can do the things Mike can do.”
Monson said the starting lineup will have juniors Mitch Ohnstad and Terrance Simmons at the guard spots. Bickerstaff and sophomore Dusty Rychart will start at the forward spots and sophomore Joel Przybilla will start at center.
Junior Kevin Nathaniel will come off the bench for now. Monson said he missed a week of practice recently for personal reasons.
Monson said the goal of the exhibition game is to work out some more of the kinks involved with adjusting to all the changes to the team.
“When you have a new staff and a new system you’re just trying to get some of the newness out,” Monson said. “It’s the first time you put that jersey on and there is some nervousness and some parts of the game that feel new to you — even though you’ve done it before — it’s been a year since it happened.”

Michael Dougherty covers basketball and football and welcomes comments at [email protected]