Przybilla’s back with Gophers; we couldn’t be happier

Say it ain’t so Joel!
First, a little blurb in the paper said Gophers center Joel Przybilla wasn’t at practice Sunday for what coach Dan Monson deemed “personal reasons.”
But Monson said Przybilla would be back for Monday night’s exhibition game with the Russian Ural-Great team.
Then on Monday, rumors swirled all around that the 7-foot-1 shot-swatter was quitting the team.
His parents, Doug and Linda, were contacted at their home in Monticello, Minn., and told reporters it was a family emergency. Reporters called his high school coach, Max LaVelle, trying to find out what the hell was going on. He didn’t know.
Tip off came at Williams Arena and the only seven-footer on the raised floor was someone named Igor Kurashov.
John-Blair Bickerstaff dumped in 23 points to lead the Gophers to an 84-69 win against big Igor’s club.
But when reporters and cameramen made their way to the media room, they only wanted to talk about one thing and one thing only — Where was Joel?
“Personal issues are personal issues, and I am respecting that, and I hope everybody else does,” Monson said.
In situations like this, speculation and rumors fly around like clay pigeons at a skeet shoot. The rumor-rampage began with talk that Przybilla was the secret witness University President Mark Yudof has been talking to. People said he was transferring, or turning pro.
LaVelle said he had talked to Joel recently. Przybilla told his ex-coach he was having a hard time at Minnesota since former coach Clem Haskins resigned. Lavelle also said his former player was struggling with the sanctions that have been leveled on the Gophers for things the current players had nothing to do with.
As a reporter that covers the basketball beat, I showed up to work on Tuesday ready to write a story eulogizing Przybilla’s short but enjoyable stint in the maroon and gold.
But Joel said it wasn’t so.
I showed up and was told Joel is back with the team. The team had Tuesday off but Joel will be at practice today. He will make a statement before practice today and he hopes the situation will be put behind him.
He will play in the season-opener Saturday against Texas-Arlington. He’s not going to turn pro. He’s not going to Kansas or any other school. He did not turn in any homework with Jan Ganglehoff’s name on it and he is certainly not Yudof’s Deep Throat.
He’s staying here. He’s slipping on that 5-foot-long jersey and he’s ready to do some damage to the rims at The Barn again.
Good.
Things without Joel might have gotten a little hairy. Oh sure, I’m excited to see Bickerstaff glide across the court and fight for rebounds and loose balls. Terrance Simmons and his explosive penetration coupled with his yard-stick vertical are intriguing.
But Joel is the straw that stirs this drink, and apparently that’s what he’s struggling with.
Quincy is gone. Kevin Clark is gone. Clem is gone. But Joel’s still here. All of a sudden Joel’s the leader of this team. Fans expect 20 points, 15 boards and eight blocked shots from him every night.
But is Joel ready to give that night in and night out? The weight from those pressures are resting on his ever-broadening shoulders and the guy just wants to play some basketball.
Let’s let him play and let’s enjoy him while we can. Don’t ask him about the NBA. Don’t ask him about Clem. Just ask him to entertain us for a little while longer.

Michael Dougherty covers football and basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]