Column: New players show off Gophers’ potential

David Nelson

Attempting to project a team’s season based on one intrasquad scrimmage is futile.

So while the Minnesota fans and media pundits who attended the men’s basketball scrimmage Sunday can’t predict the Gophers’ performance this season, they picked up on one thing: The team’s newbies will make an impact.

And out of all of head coach Richard Pitino’s first-year players, no one did a better job of proving his worth than freshman guard Nate Mason.

Mason scored 17 points Sunday evening, hitting five of his eight 3-point attempts.

Lauded for his maturity, Mason was vocal throughout the course of the scrimmage, and his confidence showed in his shot selection.

“I think you saw a lot good things from Nate, which was really good,” Pitino said.

Like Mason, junior college transfer Carlos Morris provided a spark for the Gold team in the contest, finishing the game with 13 points and three assists.

Mason and Morris should fill in well for the group that graduated during the offseason, which includes Malik Smith and Austin Hollins.

Mason proved his abilities to play either guard spot, while Morris pushed the tempo and looked fearless attacking the basket.

However, perhaps the most intriguing addition to Minnesota’s roster is Mali native Bakary Konate — a 6-foot-11-inch, 225-pound man who could be an absolute monster once he fills out his frame physically.

The freshman, who played 22 minutes, finished with only six points and four rebounds.

“You see the talent,” Pitino said. “[He’s a] little raw. [He] just needs to learn how to play.”

Konate’s athleticism gives Pitino the option to put him at the power forward spot with either Mo Walker or Elliott Eliason manning the middle.

The Gophers tried such a tactic to start the contest.

“It doesn’t look bad. It doesn’t look great yet,” Pitino said. “We need a couple more weeks to really refine that.”

Freshman Josh Martin rounds out the list of newcomers and showcased some of the high-flying athletic ability that scouts raved about.

Though it took him a while to get going, the 19-year-old finished with eight points and grabbed seven rebounds.

While the scrimmage itself wasn’t perfect — the 30 total turnovers for the Gophers speak volumes — the new faces Pitino brought in look like they can help Minnesota right away this season — wherever this team might be going.

“Those new guys now have got to understand how to play,” Pitino said. “They’ve got the talent. Now we’ve just got to coach that.”