What to expect from Pitino's Gophers in Friday's exhibition


If there's one thing to define the very early stages of the Richard Pitino era for Gopher Men's basketball, it would have to be openness.

The coach has been up-front with the media, his players, and even posted a running blog about observations from a team scrimmage.

The Star Tribune has this video posted from the team's media day, and you'll find Pitino saying that his players are "sick" of playing each other, and practice a lot better when they see a game coming up on the schedule in a few days, as they do with an exhibition against Cardinal Stritch on Friday at Williams Arena.

The Star Tribune's Amelia Rayno raises some basic questions, like can the Gophers turn running and shooting into a viable run-and-gun style? Can they run a half-court offense and hit the boards? Can a system work with so many new players?

The immediate answer is who knows, but clearly this is the direction Pitino wants to take the team.

While a lot of the faces will be the same, there are plenty of newcomers on this year's squad, notes Fox Sports North. That of course includes the 31-year-old Pitino, who took the job this offseason after just one year at the helm at Florida International.

Along with Pitino, Minnesota welcomes four new scholarship players, including three transfers (Joey King, Deandre Mathieu and Malik Smith) and one freshman (Daquein McNeil). Also new to the team is walk-on freshman Jasen Baranowski.

The Pioneer Press says Pitino could throw out a starting lineup that includes all new faces.

Then again, the Gophers return seven letterwinners and two starters in guards Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins.

Florida International transfer Malik Smith, the only player who has experienced Pitino’s system live, tells the Star Tribune that the Gophers are picking up the new style much quicker than his FIU bunch did a year ago.

And the Pioneer Press does another story on sophomore swingman Wally Ellenson, who is an All-American, just in another sport: The high jump. He will go from basketball to track again right after the season ends. He has no plans to pick one sport over the other.

"Hopefully, they've all got potential to grow," Pitino said at Monday's team media day. "Certainly, you want ready-made guys. But I think with the way that we try to do things, they've got great potential. They love to play the game; eat, drink, sleep basketball."

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