All-Stars pose challenge for Gophers men’s basketball

by Todd Zolecki

If fans think tonight’s Gophers men’s basketball game against the Converse All-Stars at Williams Arena will be a walk- away laugher, they should see what one Converse player did to an opponent last week.
All-Stars forward Jonathan Roberts hospitalized Boston College’s Danya Abrams on Nov. 5 after Roberts punched him in the eye. Abrams has a fractured eye socket, but should be ready for the Eagles season opener next week.
“I saw a tape of that,” Gophers coach Clem Haskins said. “He knocked him completely out. It was a really nasty shot. We might lose that war. We can’t get in any fisticuffs.”
Any questions whether or not the All-Stars will pose a greater challenge than the Lithuanian National team Minnesota trounced 133-67 last week were answered by the blood spilled on the court. Roberts and Abrams were in a bumping incident when Roberts unloaded and hit Abrams.
Chances of another fight are slim, but expect the level of competition to increase.
“These guys are a lot more talented,” he said. “They have a lot more talent than we have. These are all ex-college players. They have a great backcourt.”
The backcourt Haskins spoke of includes former Massachusetts guard Derek Kellogg and former Duke guard Marty Clark. The NBA’s Washington Bullets recently cut guard Bernard Blunt from its roster.
That talent led to some tight exhibition games in which the All-Stars lost to the Blue Devils on Nov. 2, 93-82, and to Boston College, 90-85.
Before the No. 22 Gophers open the regular season Nov. 23 against Stephen F. Austin, Haskins wants his players to do a better job with ball movement and see how well the Gophers can execute their half-court offense. Against Lithuania they had numerous easy baskets in transition.
And as is customary before the season, Haskins also wants to see improved team defense.
“We forced a lot of quick shots and a lot of turnovers last week,” he said. “I hope we can do the same thing; we’ll try. But I just don’t think we’ll be able to do that, so we’ve got to be able to recover.”
Haskins expects everybody to play except freshman Kyle Sanden, who must avoid major physical contact after receiving two concussions since the first day of practice last month. Haskins also won’t sub in five players at a time like he did against Lithuania.
“We’re going to really be tested,” Haskins said. “We’re going to try to win, but if we don’t, I think we have a lot we can go back on and work from.”
Fast-break points
ù Haskins on Minnesota being ranked 22nd in the preseason AP Poll: “I think it’s good for your program and it’s good recognition. I think the young men worked hard and are very deserving of that.
“It just pumps people up to get people to play harder against you. It motivates them knowing that they’re playing a top 25 program. And I think for the image of the program you have to feel good about that.”
ù The Gophers hope to sign one prep player this week for the 1997-98 season. That player is Minneapolis North point guard Khalid El-Amin, considered to be one of the nation’s top five recruits.
El-Amin is also considering Kansas where he made a recruiting visit.