Can Gophers Ralph Sampson III Follow Dad to the NBA?


ralph sampson III

Minnesota Golden Gophers Coach Tubby Smith has seen drastic, if not dramatic improvements in the game of senior Center Ralph Sampson III.

“His consistency, his numbers have improved each year. They haven’t been leaps and bounds, but I think a lot of it has to do with Ralph getting in better shape, not that he hasn’t worked at it, but he’s had to focus on learning to breathe properly, I don’t know if he had asthma or another type of breathing disorder, but he’s got that under control better, and his stamina and strength are two issues he’s done a good job of addressing this summer and fall,” Sampson’s coach Tubby Smith said.


Sampson the younger goes about 6-10, 6-11. Extremely tall yes, but well short of his father’s 7-4. Sampson the elder teamed with Hakeem Olajuwon to form the famous “Twin Towers” for the Houston Rockets in the 1980s.

“We used to have a 7’4″ poster that he could roll down, and he would be standing up with a basketball,” Sampson 3 said at media day. Having a father with a career in the league will no doubt help him try and find his way to the NBA.

“He knows what’s going on mentally, I can go to him to talk about what’s going on and he can critique my game and give me pointers, a big help,” Sampson said of his Dad.

His father is no doubt his inspiration/role model.

“getting me into basketball, the post game, started with my fundamentals, seeing the career he had, watching his films and making me want to follow in his footsteps,” Sampson responded when I asked him about his father’s influence.

Right now Sampson III is looked at on the periphery of the NBA Draft. He could easily work his way into the second round if he shows steady improvement and puts on some muscle weight. The draft stock of front line mate Trevor Mbakwe is much higher.

Still, height is always greatly over-valued come draft time, and he has that. He’s got other positives too. Tubby articulated his best trait:

“Unselfishness, willingness to pass, sometimes to a fault. Sometimes I wish he’d be more, I don’t want to say selfish but otherwise, he’s a willing screener, passer, usually in a pretty good defensive position. That’s why he’s one of the best shot blockers in the Big Ten.”

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports, a Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports.

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