Young Gophers to tour Spain

by Ben Gotz

The many new faces on the Minnesota men’s basketball team will visit a new place next week, when the team takes a 10 day trip to Spain.


The Gophers leave Monday for the foreign tour, and will play two games in Madrid and two in Barcelona against club teams before returning stateside.


Head coach Richard Pitino said at a press conference Tuesday he wasn’t sure how tough the competition in Spain would be, but the extra practices the team is allowed for the trip has gotten them prepared.


“I think we’ve gotten a lot out of these practices,” Pitino said. “Everyone always says when you do these foreign tours, I did it once [as an assistant coach] at Louisville, the most you get out of it is the practice.”


Pitino and the Louisville Cardinals took a trip to the Bahamas before the 2011-12 season, and the team ended up reaching the Final Four.


“That was the closest I had been to a group as an assistant coach just because, I mean, you’re hanging out in such a different setting,” Pitino said. “So it was a great experience for me and a lot of those guys at Louisville I’m extremely close with.”


Pitino said in order for the players to get a better cultural experience, he won’t have them go through shootarounds or walkthroughs before games. The team won’t have a detailed game plan either. Pitino’s only directive will be to stick to their principles.


“But when we go out there, it’s time to have some fun,” Pitino said.


The team will tour the FC Barcelona soccer stadium, take in a flamenco show, and go on a boat tour in Spain between games.


Sophomores Bakary Konaté and Gaston Diedhiou, who both played in Spain in high school, will play tour guide occasionally.


“They need to. They don’t know anything around here so they need to prove to me that they know something over there,” Pitino joked. “They’ll be good. They’re very excited, and I’m excited to kind of see them in their element.”


Other basketball notes


– Pitino confirmed he would grant freshman Jarvis Johnson, who was not cleared medically to play at Minnesota, his release if he wanted to try to play at another school


– Sophomore Nate Mason, who underwent thumb surgery in the spring, is fully recovered and missed no summer workouts, Pitino said


– Mason and freshman point guard Kevin Dorsey will see time on the court together this season, Pitino said, but he said he wasn’t sure how much

– Pitino called transfers Reggie Lynch and Davonte Fitzgerald, who will both sit out the season due to NCAA transfer rules, two of the better players on the Gophers’ team this year