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Return to the 2006-07 Top 144 Preview

August 1st, 2006

By Joel Welser

Broadcast Basketball


Minnesota Golden Gophers


Overall Rank: #103

Conference Rank: #10 Big Ten


2005-06: 16-15, 5-11, 10th

2005-06 postseason: NIT


Seven players started ten or more games for Minnesota last year.  Five of them are gone and one of the returning players was a walk-on.  Sure there are some lingering thoughts of 2004-2005 and some interesting unknowns regarding the newcomers, but you donít lose 4 Ĺ starters and get better, at least not in the preseason rankings.


Whoís Out: Vincent Grier, Maurice Hargrow and Adam Boone provided a dynamic backcourt trio.  Those three all averaged in double digit points as seniors and were the only three players to average over 24 minutes per game.  Another guard, Rico Tucker, started two contests and has opted to transfer.  Up front the Gophers lose Jíson Stamper and Zach Puchtel.  Stamper averaged 6.1 points and 5.8 boards last season.  Puchtel, who earned 14 starts, is off to Harvard to finish up his degree, or off to the Bears to play some tight end.


Whoís In: The perimeter needs some help.  Lawrence McKenzie, Limar Wilson, Lawrence Westbrook and Kevin Payton isnít a bad group to provide it.  McKenzie, a transfer from Oklahoma, will be asked to pick up the scoring.  He averaged 9.5 points for the Sooners two years ago.  McKenzie can play some point, but is better suited worrying about scoring.  Wilson is a proven distributor at the junior college level.  He can shoot a bit to keep the defense honest, but his playmaking and experience will earn Wilson a starting gig.  Westbrook is a scorer.  Putting up 40 points in high school was common place for the 6-0 guard.  Heíll see some minutes at the two spot and, if things work his way, those minutes could increase quite a bit by the time March rolls around.  Payton is a versatile guard who can fill in anywhere on the perimeter.  The 6-5 redshirt freshman brings quality depth and versatility to the backcourt.  In the paint Damian Johnson, Bryce Webster and Engen Nurumbi will battle for minutes.  Johnson, who redshirted last year, can play anywhere on the floor.  At 6-7 and 192 pounds, heíll most likely see his minutes at the three and four spots.  Johnson can beat the opposition off the dribble, but isnít expected to make a big impact as a freshman.  Webster has all the tools to be a great center in the Big Ten.  Heís a solid rebounder and has good size at 6-10 and 250, but needs to get tougher to compete with the big bodies in the conference.  Nurumbi might be the answer at the power forward spot.  The 6-7 transfer from Arizona Western Community College averaged 16.7 points and 8.0 rebounds last season.  Some academic issues kept some schools away, but once that is taken care of the Gophers have themselves a quality big man.


Who to Watch: Spencer Tollackson has quietly improved over the last two seasons.  The 6-9 center from the basketball hotbed of Chaska, Minnesota, averaged 8.1 points and 4.1 rebounds as a sophomore last season.  Tollackson plays strong under the basket and will use his 267 pound frame to his advantage.  Dan Coleman, a 6-9 junior, would ideally be by Tollacksonís side up front, but Coleman may end up at the three spot due to necessity.  Coleman has the potential to be a surprise leader for the Gophers with an increase in playing time.   


Final Projection: Jamal Abu-Shamala started ten games after walking on to Minnesota.  He hustles, which every walk-on does, and has a decent shot.  It is hoped that the Gophers talent level will make Abu-Shamala see less minutes; which would be a shame, since he is fun to watch.  Overall Coach Dan Monson and company have the talent to surprise, but it will take a little while for the rotation to work itself out.  By the time it does, the postseason will be out of reach.  The good news, at least for 2007-2008, is that the team has no seniors on the roster.


Projected Post-season Tournament: none


Projected Starting Five:

Limar Wilson, Junior, Guard, DNP last season

Lawrence McKenzie, Junior, Guard, DNP last season

Dan Coleman, Junior, Forward, 7.3 points per game

Engen Nurumbi, Junior, Forward, DNP last season

Spencer Tollackson, Junior, Center, 8.1 points per game

104 San Francisco Ľ Complete List Ľ 102 Kent State

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