Summer league features Gophers ballers

The Howard Pulley Pro City league in St. Paul provides first look at some of the incoming Gophers.

Gophers guard Al Nolen playing for the El-Amin Fish House at the Pulley League last summer. Nolen is playing for the Pat Madison Magic this summer.

Paul Bangasser

Gophers guard Al Nolen playing for the El-Amin Fish House at the Pulley League last summer. Nolen is playing for the Pat Madison Magic this summer.

The St. Paul Salvation Army gym is providing the first glimpse of the upcoming Gophers menâÄôs basketball squad. The gym is home to the Howard Pulley Pro City League, which features eight teams playing four weeks of games, concluding with playoffs. Gophers head coach Tubby Smith has his entire squad playing in the league, and they will be facing stiff competition. The teams are made up of players from Division I, II and III schools, as well as players that play professionally overseas. Rene Pulley , executive director and CEO of Howard Pulley Basketball, said he thinks having Minnesota face players such as Quincy Lewis and John Thomas , professionals who have played in the NBA and internationally, provides them with a chance to play against opponents they would not normally see. âÄúQuincy Lewis is out of school, so Colton Iverson ; he doesnâÄôt see a Quincy Lewis, whoâÄôs a pro,âÄù Pulley said. âÄúHe doesnâÄôt see a John Thomas, whoâÄôs a pro. To be able to play at that level, on that stage helps them out.âÄù The Gophers are divided equally throughout the eight teams, with one to four players on most squads. For junior Al Nolen and sophomore Colton Iverson , who play on A&A Millwork , the pro-city league is a familiar sight, as this is their second year playing on the same team. For others, such as junior Paul Carter , the Howard Pulley League is just one of many new experiences. A recent trip to China has left Carter with a new sense of confidence. He said playing against pros from the Chinese Basketball Association has him feeling like he can compete against professionals. Carter is a member of the El-Amin Fish House, named after Khalid El-Amin ; Minneapolis native and point guard of ConnecticutâÄôs 1999 NCAA Championship team. Joining Carter on El-AminâÄôs team is senior Devron Bostick , who is entering his second year with both the Gophers and Howard Pulley. For Bostick, playing in the league is a good way for him to stay in shape as well as refine his game. âÄúIt really helps with conditioning, since youâÄôre running up and down [the court],âÄù he said. âÄúI work on my dribble moves and shots, just try to work on my game all around.âÄù The first game matched up El-Amin against HP-Bye , a team made up entirely of high school players. The result was plenty of alley-oops, steals, dunks and a lopsided score, with El-Amin winning 126-101. While the atmosphere of the games is relaxed, the league provides an opportunity for the public to check out new Minnesota players. Incoming freshman Rodney Williams, who helped form a nationally ranked recruiting class, is one of those new players on display. Williams, like Bostick, is a veteran of the Howard Pulley League, this being his third season. Williams said he noticed the college and international players prove to be quite an improvement compared to high school players. âÄùTheyâÄôre stronger than the high school competition,âÄù he said. âÄúItâÄôs just a different game that they play.âÄù One of the interesting aspects of the league is watching Gophers play against each other, something junior Blake Hoffarber looks forward to. âÄúItâÄôs fun to get out there and play against them, and see all the competition out here,âÄù he said. The Howard Pulley League continues every Monday through Thursday, with playoffs starting on July 20.

Sampson left off national team

Sophomore Ralph Sampson III was one of the final four cut from the USA Under-19 national team. Sampson, who averaged 6.3 points and 4.2 rebounds last year for the Gophers , was beaten out for the center spot by Arnett Moultrie of Texas-El Paso. Coached by PittsburghâÄôsâÄô Jamie Dixon the team features players such as Duke’s Seth Curry , brother of former Davidson star Stephen Curry , as well as Darius Miller of Kentucky. The national team will participate in the forthcoming FIBA World Junior Championships, held in New Zealand from July 2 to 12.