Fresh faces on display in scrimmage at Williams

Minnesota lost five seniors from last year’s team, which finished 16-15.

Zach Eisendrath

For a team full of unfamiliar faces, tonight’s intrasquad scrimmage will be a useful tool for both Minnesota’s men’s basketball team and its fans.

The Gophers will be split into two evenly-matched teams during tonight’s Maroon and Gold Madness at Williams Arena at 7 p.m.

Coach Dan Monson said his main objective for the game is to make his players – many of whom have had very little experience at the Big Ten level – feel more comfortable in a larger setting.

“This is a team that is very unproven,” he said. “A lot of them haven’t put the jersey on before, besides one team picture for five minutes.

“I’m expecting it not to be pretty in a lot of ways, but I also know you have to have a foundation and a starting point.”

Minnesota, having lost five contributing seniors from a year ago, started searching for its identity last Friday when the team traveled to Rochester to begin official practices. Monson said the team looked sloppy at times during last weekend’s scrimmage, and said he is hopeful for cleaner play tonight.

The fresh face on the team that has been drawing the most attention thus far has been transfer Lawrence McKenzie. The junior sat out last season after transferring from Oklahoma where he averaged 9.5 points per game as a sophomore and was named to the Big 12’s All-Reserve Team.

The 6-foot 2-inch guard from Minneapolis said he is ready to show the maroon and gold faithful what his teammates already know – that he will be a major contributor to this team this season.

“A lot of people haven’t seen me play in a long time, so I’m excited to show people what I’ve got,” McKenzie said.

As long as he has a chance to create off the dribble and be a playmaker for the team, McKenzie said he doesn’t care which guard position he plays. However, Monson said he would like to play McKenzie mostly at the off-guard position.

The other guard likely to see time at point guard this year is junior college transfer Limar Wilson.

Wilson, who comes to Minnesota after two years at Northeast Community College, said he has big expectations for his first year with the team.

Monson said no positions will be set in stone so early in the season, but Wilson said he will use tonight’s scrimmage to prove he deserves to be the team’s starting point guard.

“I’m trying to prove (tonight) that I can run the point, run the team (and) get everybody involved,” Wilson said.

While the majority of the Gophers’ roster will be hard to identify, a few staples from last year’s team – including junior center Spencer Tollackson – will be recognizable.

Tollackson, who averaged 8.1 points and 4.1 rebounds last year, will be relied on to contribute in a much larger capacity this season. He said he thinks fans will be surprised with the talent level of the new and old names alike.

“I think they will be surprised with how hard we worked this summer and how much better everybody has gotten,” he said.

Monson said the Gophers have a long road to travel until they reach the level needed to be competitive in the Big Ten. Tonight’s scrimmage is one of the first steps in seeing what exactly his team brings to the table.

“We say that every game is like a potluck and you’ve got to bring your best dish to the potluck,” Monson said. “What’s going to be our meal right now? I don’t know. We are still trying to figure out the menu.”