By Mike Gallagher
As I sit in my $325 a month house in North Minneapolis, and stare at the recently found dumpster Christmas tree right across from me that has one present under it, I am thankful that present is a case of beer. More relevant to what you folks came to this article for, is the wonder of what is under other Christmas trees at this time of year.
Specifically, I stop and think about the University of Minnesota’s basketball program, and how their stash of gifts is looking under their undoubtedly monstrous tree this year. As fans gather around and look at the wealth of delights under the maroon and gold-lighted tree, they can barely contain their excitement as they approach their first present. That’s right everybody, it’s in your hands. You are fans, the ones that drive the program and keep it successful, without you, sports would cease to exist. With that being said, aren’t you sick of waiting to see what you get heading into conference season?
First Present: Tubby Smith. It was a wise choice to open this present first and a good start to Christmas. You chose the best present Gopher basketball has received, and it’s the gift that keeps on giving, year in and year out. He gave you only your second NCAA Tournament appearance in the last ten years, and a great resume behind him to show that he has and will build winners for years to come. Aside from being a great coach, he also is a great recruiter, and has your squad in the running for two of the top 30 recruits in the country. Trey Zeigler, Rivals.com #26 nationally, and even more exciting, Devoe Joseph’s brother Cory, Rivals.com #7 in the nation are expected to make spring decisions on where they will go. This present is a keeper.
Second Present: Royce White. Quick, look in the box for a gift receipt, because if it didn’t come with one, you might be out a present. As much as I still think White will be back to the program despite his announcement of quitting the Gophers, it doesn’t appear it will be anytime soon. After all, if my prediction of him redshirting and being ready to play next year comes to fruition, you can put him on your list when this time comes around next year. Bring him back to the store right away.
Third present: Trevor Mbakwe. Wow, a Christmas that looked so fruitful in the beginning has quickly turned rotten. This is another gift that you have to throw back in the car after feigning excitement and thanks to a person that clearly doesn’t know you at all. You could throw him in the back of the closet until he is cleared to play, but as you can read in my last article, it’s increasingly unlikely he will see the court this year. With the pre-trial date set for January 7th in his assault case and there being only two months at that point until the end of the regular season, it’s tough to see how he can come back and get in the rotation that late in the season, let alone be productive. He should redshirt, leaving you with only one worthwhile present with two to go, cross your fingers…..
Fourth Present: Blake Hoffarber. Awesome, this present has the most potential of any one so far. Somehow Santa must have managed to grab you one of the last ones on the rack, because he is a hot item right now. He won Big Ten Player of the Week last week even though the Gophers played only one game, an 89-48 win against Northern Illinois. That game was a big one for Hoffarber, who recorded 26 points, six rebounds, and four assists. The award had been building for a few weeks, as Hoffarber has been on fire the last five games, all wins for the Gophers. His 17.2 PPG over that stretch leads the team and he recorded his first double-double in the victory over Brown. This present is a great complimentary one, as it is much better coupled with other good presents. It comes with an attachment of an extra large sniper rifle that shoots basketballs, which he’s been using lately to sharp-shoot at a 60% clip in the last five games from three-point range. Look closely at the tag, though, as it does come with a disclaimer that reads: “WARNING: Player may vanish for periods of time unexpectedly and extra large sniper rifle can misfire for long periods of time.” Well, enjoy it while you can.
Fifth Present: Rodney Williams. You’ve got that look on your face, don’t you? You want to be excited, but you really can’t be. You like the gift, but you wish Christmas would’ve come a month earlier for this present. Well, since Christmas is in December, let me help to solve that look on your face. Don’t mind the throbbing red foot on your Rodney, he had an MRI a week ago and they’re just resting him as a precaution at this point, it should go back to a regular foot in a few days. He’s a great talent so you should be thankful to the one who gave this to you, as this present will pay off down the road. For now, you may want to set it aside, at least until that foot heals, and proceed with caution after that, because the conference season is tough and the way things have been going for Williams, may be a little much to handle at this point in his career. You’ll definitely want this present as you move forward though, it will bring you a lot of joy in the future.
Sixth Present: Momentum. Nice! This is the perfect thing to round out your Christmas. It’s perfect for this time of year, and well earned might I say, as the team has won five in a row. This giant box of it will help the squad carry some confidence into the conference season. This present is kind of like a chocolate Santa, it’s amazing, but it’s gone so quick, unless you savor it. We’ll see what the Gophers do with their chocolate Santa, can they savor it and make it last a while, or will they be bad and eat it all at once and not have any more for the next few games. Let’s hope Tubby keeps them discipline and makes them take only little bits at a time so it will last them into the conference season.
Well, overall Gopher fans, a pretty solid Christmas. Yeah, it had it’s ups and downs, but doesn’t every Christmas?
Hopefully you came out of your holiday happy, and after reading this, with a better idea of what to expect from the Gophers in the second half, rather than a look of confusion trying to sift through all the analogies and comparisons you’ve just encountered.Follow paulmbanks