Pitino and Co. ready to turn over a new leaf
MINNEAPOLIS--It won't be difficult to separate the 2016-17 Gophers' basketball team from last year's edition. Minnesota will feature six new faces -- three freshmen and three transfers -- each of whom figures to make some type of impact this season.
MINNEAPOLIS-It won't be difficult to separate the 2016-17 Gophers' basketball team from last year's edition.
Minnesota will feature six new faces - three freshmen and three transfers - each of whom figures to make some type of impact this season.
This year's Gophers look talented and long, with 11 of the players listed at 6-foot-4 or taller.
"It's the most complete team (we've had)," Gophers coach Richard Pitino said. "It's the most talented team we've had; it's the most versatile team we've had."
That's saying a lot, considering the 2013-14 Gophers - Pitino's first team - won 25 games and an NIT championship. Anything at or above those results this season would be a major leap for a team that featured more off-court issues than Big Ten victories last year.
"Last year was very challenging, but take it and learn from it, grow from it," Pitino said. "It was an experience that we dealt with, I dealt with, the players dealt with. Well, let's use it as a learning experience."
The biggest takeaway?
"Just growing up, just maturing as a team and as an individual," junior guard Nate Mason said. "Coach Pitino and his staff have been doing a great job this year, just making us more mature and making us grow up."
Sophomore forward Jordan Murphy said people will see the Gophers' progress by their first scrimmage. He doesn't think the Gophers will have troubling regaining their confidence after last season's struggles, adding that Minnesota has "a lot of good players."
"I don't think we're really much worried about just proving people wrong or anything like that," Murphy said. "I think we're more about just getting better day by day."
Mason noted that he's been with the Gophers for two years - "two bad seasons." But he said he's moved on from those.
"We've got a lot of talent, a different look to this team, and everyone's really hungry," he said. "So I'm excited for this season, excited for what we've got in the future."
Pitino senses a quiet confidence in this year's team, and a willingness to prove what it can do.
"We certainly understand that off the court we didn't handle business (last year), on the court we didn't handle business," Pitino said. "We're not a boastful program, but I think these guys truly believe we can be very good, but we know you can't skip steps. You've got to continue to work.
"It's tough when you sit on a bad season, because there's nothing you can do until the games come," Pitino said. "I don't like to talk about it. I'd rather do it. And I think these guys are the same way. But I think they're excited to show people hopefully what we're all about."
Pitino estimated junior center Reggie Lynch will be back by the last week in October.
Lynch, an Illinois State transfer and Edina native, had left knee surgery in September. He worked on a bike for much of Tuesday's open practice.
"He hasn't played in awhile," Pitino said. "He looked good when he came back. This surgery, I think it's pretty minor, from what I've been told. I think it was more, 'Let's get it out of the way now.' Hopefully, it's nothing serious. I don't think it is."
The Gophers season starts Nov. 3 with an exhibition against Bemidji State.