We’ve touched on the significance of the Minnesota Golden Gophers three-headed monster, Trevor Mbakwe, Rodney Williams and Andre Hollins – but today the discussion steers towards whom else will make an impact on the Golden Gophers roster in the upcoming months.
Returning players Joe Coleman, Julian Welch, Austin Hollins, and Maurice Walker figure to be more involved than a season ago. Also keep an eye on Freshman Charles Buggs, his athleticism alone should help earn him some playing time in Tubby Smith’s system.
Joe Coleman is a dynamic sophomore who showed flashes of excellence a season ago. As is the case with most underclassmen, consistency was a huge issue for the stout shooting guard. His play was erratic at times and his jump-shot left something to be desired. So far through two exhibition games this year, he has put up point totals of 21 and 15, leading the team in scoring. If he can continue to develop his mid-range game and improve his decision making, Coleman should be a great complimentary piece to the Gophers core.
Welch is the team’s best pure shooter, but despite his short and stocky size, he’s definitely more comfortable playing off the ball. He lacks the speed needed to excel at point guard, but will give Andre Hollins timely breaks at the position. With the development of Hollins, Welch will be used more efficiently around the perimeter than a season ago. Give him an open look and the senior will make you pay, shooting 44% last season from distance. Despite his excellent free throw percentage (77% last season), he did have problems converting from the charity stripe in late-game pressure situations.
Hollins enters his junior season having improved by leaps and bounds since his freshman campaign. In 2011-12, the slender wing averaged a shade over 9 points a game and shot 37% from three. Recruited as a shooter, his form and technique was a bit shocking coming into the program, but he looked much more comfortable a season ago. He has a high basketball IQ and that should translate even more as he matures. If both he and Welch can consistently knock down the long range shot, the Gophers could find themselves higher up the Big Ten ladder.
Maurice Walker has yet to stay healthy long enough for the Gophers to figure out what they have in the 6”10, 290 pound behemoth. His size alone should create enough problems for the opposition, but it is his touch and finesse around the rim that has had the coaching staff excited since he enrolled. He shouldn’t get major minutes right away with Sophomore Elliott Eliason projecting to be the starting center, but he figures to see enough time to make an impact.