Tired of waiting: Kane to leave Gophers

by Adam Fink

Aliou Kane kept hearing from fans and coaches that his time would come. But that didn’t make it any easier for the Minnesota men’s basketball center to play sparingly this last season.

On Wednesday, Kane, a redshirt freshman, announced he will transfer to a junior college to play next season. After sitting out the 2002-03 season, Kane said he did not want to transfer to another Division I school and have to miss another season because of transfer rules.

“I want to play,” Kane said. “That is very important to me. Yeah, my time will come. But when? I want to go try something else.

“Inside of me it was very, very hard sitting there and knowing I can go in and do something.”

The 6-foot-10-inch center played in 17 games, averaging 0.5 minutes, 0.5 points and 0.6 rebounds per game.

Kane said the Gophers coaching staff was not a reason for his departure and his decision was not made hastily. The Mauritania native plans to finish this semester at the University before leaving.

“It’s important for Aliou to gain playing experience at this point in his career,” Minnesota coach Dan Monson said in a release.

Kane’s departure leaves the Gophers – who finished tied for last in the Big Ten last season with a 3-13 record – even thinner in the low post.

While forward Kris Humphries has not announced whether he will return, the Big Ten freshman of the year is widely considered a probable midfirst round NBA draft pick this year, should he declare.

That would leave center Jeff Hagen, redshirt freshman Dan Coleman and recruit Spencer Tollackson as the Gophers’ primary low-post threats next season.

In addition, with seniors Michael Bauer and Ben Johnson leaving the rotation, Minnesota will be looking for able bodies and scorers. Humphries (21.7 points per game), Johnson (11.5), Bauer (8.2) and Moe Hargrow (11.4) – who left the team in January – accounted for 75 percent of the Gophers’ points last year.

Over the last four seasons, nearly a roster full of players has departed the program because of violating team rules or opting for the NBA draft.

Walk-on Smriga gone

Matt Smriga, a walk-on forward, also announced Wednesday that he would not return next season. Smriga, academically a senior, had one year of eligibility left.