2011-12 Gophers Basketball Preview: New Faces At The Barn

Posted: October 12, 2011 by Kodi in Gopher Redemption, NCAA

The Recruiting Class of 2011

Key Redshirts Coming Into the Mix

Junior College Transfers Looking to Make an Impact

The Incoming Freshmen:

Luckily for Gopher fans there is still hope for Minnesota Athletics because of Tubby Smith and the basketball team and hockey if you follow that sort of thing.  Smith is one of the most touted College Basketball Coaches and he is able to parlay that into signing some pretty big name recruits. Unlike Football Smith is able to recruit inside the state and was able to sign Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball, but one wasn’t enough and Tubby got Tennessee’s Mr. Basketball to commit as well.

Tubby knew that when he came to Minnesota he had to quit letting great talent leave the state and he has honed in on signing the great talent produced in the Gophers backyard. Joe Coleman is a 6’4 200 pound SG who was named Minnesota Mr. Basketball in 2011. He was ranked 26th in his position and was a Top 100 recruit coming out of Hopkins High School. He comes from a lineage of Gophers including his brother Dan (03-07) and his uncle Ben (79-81).

Coleman is an athletic guard who can create his own shot, with good ball handling and the explosiveness to get to the rim. His perimeter shot leaves something to be desired but you can’t argue against a guy that can make his own shot and the skill to finish. Coleman is going to make an immediate impact on this Gopher team and will likely see a lot of floor time as a true freshman.

Tubby Smith and the Gophers were able to bring in Tennessee’s Mr. Basketball when they got 6’2” 200 pound SG Andre Hollins to commit. Hollins has great intangibles and a quick release in his jumper, but he doesn’t have the ability to create and Tubby is going to have to work on his defense. Hollins has good touch and his quick release will give the Gophers a viable 3 point threat that they are lacking since the graduation of Hoffarber.

He ranked 26th at SG in the country and had a prominent showing offensively when his High School faced Findlay Prep in a Tournament in Memphis. Hollins put up 46 points against Findlay showing his athleticism and ability to adjust in the air and finished his High School career with 2,342 points averaging just over 19 a game. Hollins was 30-7 during his time with White Station High and won a State Championship in his sophomore year. He also led his Memphis Magic Elite team to the select division championship of the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions as well as getting to the Adidas Super 64 title game.

Realistically neither Coleman nor Hollins are reliable options at PG right now, but it doesn’t mean that Tubby Smith can’t coach them up. The Gophers were able to talk Kendal Shell into walking on to the Minnesota Basketball team rather than doing the same at Pepperdine University. Shell is a 6’2” 185 true PG who was a 2 time all-conference while attending Webster Groves High School. In his senior season he averaged over 13 points, 3.6 assist, 3.1 rebounds and 1.5 steals a game on the way to the Suburban South Conference Championship and a 24-5 record.

Shell has an interesting story because he was going to commit to Pepperdine as a preferred walk-on but as Kendal explained “some people I know got in touch with Coach Smith and he saw my tape. We spoke a few times and we talked about the school and the opportunities here and he invited me to walk-on to the team” and now he’s here. Tubby went out and got this kid because he is a true PG, who prides himself on defensive pressure and competitive spirit and most importantly he’s smart. So smart that he scored a perfect on the reading portion of the SATs and scored a 29 on the ACTs.

Redshirts Coming into the Mix

The Gophers have a couple of RS Freshman who are going to be available to Tubby and the Gophers this season. Oto Osenieks is a 6’8” 205 pound Forward from Riga, Latvia. He had extensive experience playing for the U-18 Latvian National Team as well as with another Latvia U-20 team in the European Championships where he earned MVP in the Euro Youth Basketball League. He left Latvia to attend Brehm Prep in Carbondale, Illinois where he led his team to a 15-6 record and averaged 16 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists per game.

Brehm Prep isn’t your run of the woods High School team; they aren’t facing mediocre opponents but rather other Prep schools, often nationally ranked, as well as Junior Colleges. Osenieks has shown great touch from behind the 3 point line and was waffling on offers from schools like Florida, DePaul and Iowa State. He struggles defensively but could be implemented into a system and will be a great role player for Minnesota this season. He will likely fill in as a change of pace SF or a SG in Tubby’s big man line-up, but he has the talent to gain himself more playing time in the future.

The departure of Colton Iverson has left the Gophers searching for his replacement but they may have already had him. Elliot Eliason is a 6’11” 260 pound Center from Chadron, Nebraska who was redshirted during the 2010-11 season. Smith wanted Eliason to bulk up and has done just that admitting that he put on “about 27-28 pounds since I got here” during an interview. He went on to divulge about his redshirt year and that he was “very happy with that decision. It gave me a chance to work really hard in the weight room and on my game. I got more confidence”.

Smith and the Gophers do not want Eliason to play soft as Iverson did during his tenure in Dinkytown. Eliason is no slouch averaging nearly 18 points, 10.2 rebounds, 4.2 blocks, 2.9 assists and 1.1 steals a game during his senior year in High School on the way to winning the Nebraska C-1 State Championship. He has been named Gatorade state Player of the Year twice and was the 22nd ranked Center coming out of Chadron High. Hopefully the weight training worked out and this tall lanky kid can find some sort of presence underneath the hoop, but he will undoubtedly have a chance to score it’s just whether or not he can defend.

Chris Halvorsen is a 6’8” 214 Forward that sat out last year after transferring from Valparaiso to Minnesota. Halvorsen is a Minnesota native playing his High School ball at Henry-Sibley where he was named to the second team All-State Team after his senior year. He was named the All-Metro Defensive Player of the year in 2009 and was named to the All-Tournament team during the state tournament but his team was bounced in the Quarterfinals and Championship game in back-to-back years.

Halvorsen spent last year bulking up just as Eliason did, putting on 24 pounds since arriving in Dinkytown. The kid had limited playing time in Valparaiso and will not likely be a key player on Tubby’s team but he is a solid talent for a walk-on player. He played in just 9 games as a freshman for the Crusaders and averaged 1 point, 0.7 rebounds and just 4.4 minutes a game. I do not expect big things from Halvorsen but do like his defensive ability.

JuCo Transfers

The Gophers and Tubby Smith know that they could have a crisis on their hands if they aren’t able to find a PG. Coleman is definitely a SG while Hollins may be able to transition and Shell plays the point but will be coming off the bench. Smith may worry about how long it takes Hollins to get it together, if he can, so Minnesota went out and got 6’3” 200 pound PG Julian Welch to commit. Welch is a transfer student from Yuba Community College by way of UC-Davis and will be a Junior PG for the Gophers.

Welch attended Franklin High School in Elk Grove, California where he averaged 25.1 points per game, the 15th most in the state of California. He scored 20 points or more 18 times and more than 30 7 times while averaging 45.1 percent from behind the three point line. He was first team All-Metro and voted Delta Valley Conference MVP and finished his High School career with 1,230 points, a Franklin High record.

Welch spent his freshman year at UC-Davis and was the Big West Conference Freshman of the year averaging 7.8 points per game, the fourth most on the team. He was also named First Team Mid-Major All-American but left for Yuba Community College. While there he led them to the Bay Valley Conference Championship and was named Conference MVP and California Junior College First Team All-State, averaging 19 points and 5 assists per game. Welch can ball and has above average ball handling skills with the ability to shoot the deep ball. He has good vision and solid passing skills but may be vulnerable defensively facing some elite talent in the B1G Conference. Welch will most likely be the veteran presence at PG and will lead the team until one of the young guns step up.

After Colton Iverson transferred the Gophers freed up another scholarship and were looking for another solid role player. They may have hit the jackpot with 6’7” 235 pound Forward Andre Ingram, a Minneapolis native who played at Minnesota Transitions on the same High School team as Kyle and Kevin Noreen. Ingram has spent the last two years at Butler Community College in Kansas where he averaged over 13 points and 7.4 rebounds a game as a sophomore.

Ingram plays good post defense and is a solid body down low, where he is able to snag some boards and block some shots. He is a two way player, who has an arsenal of offensive moves. He can explode to the hoop and finish strong but also is able to finesse his way around defenses and adjust. Last year he shot 64 percent from the floor and has the ability to pull up and make a jump shot. Ingram will be a great option off the bench for Minnesota when Tubby needs to give Mbakwe or Williams a rest.

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