McBrayer growing his game as a starter

The freshman guard is second in assists on the team and tied for the most steals.

Freshman guard Dupree McBrayer drives towards the basket at Williams Arena on Jan. 27.

Sam Harper, Daily File Photo

Freshman guard Dupree McBrayer drives towards the basket at Williams Arena on Jan. 27.

Ryan Falk

In the midst of the Gophers’ long losing streak, some of the team’s younger players are providing glimmers of hope.
 
 
One of those bright spots has been freshman guard Dupree McBrayer, a Queens, N.Y., native who has started for the team throughout most of Big Ten play.
 
 
“I think he’s got great upside,” head coach Richard Pitino said after the Gophers’ loss to Purdue on Jan. 27. “I think Dupree can really take off because he can go by guys, and he’s got length and he’s able to pass over the top, [which is] something we want with big guards.”
 
 
The 6-foot-4-inch, 175-pound guard has been a regular starter since Jan. 12 against Nebraska, though his offense has struggled. His shooting percentage this season is 28.8 and only 15.8 from three-point range, but the rookie said he hasn’t been discouraged.
 
 
“[My confidence] is high right now,” McBrayer said before the team’s loss against Illinois. “My teammates keep telling me to keep being aggressive. … [The ball] is going to go in.”
 
 
His poor shooting has led him to average only five points per game, but he’s been able to use other aspects of his game to help the team.
 
 
McBrayer is second on the team in assists with 54 and tied for first in steals with 20.
 
 
“I believe he’s just playing stress-free,” senior guard Carlos Morris said before the team’s loss to Illinois. “We all knew he could do this since day one. I believe he’s going to be a great player, and he’s going to keep improving. You can definitely see him improving.”
 
 
McBrayer’s offense has started to come around recently as well, as he scored nine points against both Michigan and Indiana.
 
 
With his 3-point shot not falling, he hasn’t been afraid to use his slender frame to drive more often.
 
 
“I’m definitely feeling comfortable [attacking the basket] thanks to my team,” McBrayer said after the Gophers’ loss to Purdue Jan. 27.
 
 
The freshman’s best game came against the Boilermakers, when he scored 13 points and had five assists in a 68-64 loss.
 
 
He led the Gophers with two steals in the game, thanks to his ability to get deflections on defense.
 
 
His defensive tenacity has made him a consistent player for the Gophers, even as the losses keep piling up. But McBrayer should only continue to improve as he gains
weight throughout his college career and potentially finds his shooting stroke.
 
 
“He’s active. I think he’s going be really good,” Pitino said. “I’m really excited about him.”