Gophers hoopsfinishes trip at 1-5

by Michael Dougherty

New Gophers men’s basketball coach Dan Monson and his team returned from their six-game 12-day European trip Monday with a disappointing 1-5 record.
However, Monson said the objective of the trip was not necessarily a great showing on the court. Instead Monson stressed togetherness and team unity.
“Our goal on this trip from the start was to get to know each other as individuals and as basketball players,” Monson said. “We accomplished that, and I feel very good about the direction we are headed.”
Despite Monson’s claim, the coach was unable to bond with his players during the last 5 minutes 39 seconds of the Gophers’ 115-71 loss Saturday to Belgium’s Spirou Charlerois professional team; Monson was ejected for arguing a foul call.
Sophomore centers Joel Przybilla and John Aune were also unable to finish the game thanks to fouling out, and sophomore forward Dusty Rychart was unable to play for the second-straight game because of a deep thigh bruise. It was also the second-straight game in which Przybilla fouled out.
Through the six-game tour the Gophers were outscored by an average of 95.5 points to 76.7, and averaged 24 fouls per game against 15 for the opponents.
Junior guard Mitch Ohnstad led the team in scoring with 12.9 points per game, and fellow junior guard Terrance Simmons was second at 12.6.
Przybilla averaged 12 points and 4.5 rebounds a game. Rychart led the team in rebounding with 12 a game, and added 10.3 points in his four games. And junior J.B. Bickerstaff scored nine a game while averaging 4.5 boards.
“This is a great group of guys who really care for each other,” Monson said of his players. “They have been through a ton of adversity, including some on this trip, and it has brought them closer together.”
Before the team left for the trip, Monson said he would look to co-captains Bickerstaff and junior center-forward Kyle Sanden for leadership, as well as Przybilla and junior guard Kevin Nathaniel.
Sanden, however, did not make the trip because reports said he was still attending summer school to maintain his eligibility.
Monson said Przybilla’s presence in the middle provides leadership by itself, and he added that Bickerstaff is a born leader — something with which Bickerstaff said he agrees.
“I don’t feel any pressure, it’s something I’ve done my whole life,” Bickerstaff said of his leadership role. “You don’t just all of a sudden wake up one day and say I want to be a leader. It’s something I’m used to doing and I expect it.”
The Gophers will not practice again until Oct. 15, when they will resume with their full squad, including incoming freshmen Shane Schilling, Mike Bauer and Ryan Wildenborg.
Monson said the trip showed him what his team is made of but that he is anxious to see the whole team assembled together.
“I’m fortunate to have a team that already possesses that family feeling,” Monson said. “When they get more comfortable with the new system and we get all of our players working together for a common goal, we will have a lot of fun.”