Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Best Gophers of the Tubby Era: #11-#15

Throughout the summer I'll be writing up each of the 34 players who played for the University of Minnesota under Tubby Smith.  Why Tubby?  Because it's the most recent era that's over.  If this goes well perhaps I'll go back and do Monson as well.  I'll be looking at any player who played at Minnesota under Tubby at some point, even if it was just a year.  And I will be considering their entire Gopher career, so guys who started under Monson or finished under Pitino will have their whole career considered, but anyone who transferred in or out is only evaluated on their Gopher stats.  With me?  Here we go:

#34 to #31 can be found here.
#26-#30 can be found here.
#21-#25 are here
Here's #16-#20

15.  Julian Welch (2011-2013).
-  This feels high for Welch considering he was a two year player whose playing time dramatically shrunk in his second year, but Welch somehow managed to rank top 10 in assists, three pointers, and steals among all Gophers in this countdown.  I don't remember him as a particularly great shooter or passer, but I remember the steals simply because of the difference between his hand speed and foot speed.  He had, without question, the fastest hands of any Gopher I can recall.  He also was essentially a lawn gnome when he tried to guard anyone trying to get to the lane.  I legitimately loved watching him simply because of those two things.

14.  Elliott Eliason (2011-2015).
-  This is a tough career to try to sum up, but you could probably do it best just by looking at his minutes per game each year:  15.0, 13.7 (regression), 21.9 (big leap forward!), 11.2 (ugh).  That's about right.  He had that one stretch of brilliance his junior season where he put up double doubles in four of eight games with two other near misses, and that stretch included five Big Ten games, where it looked like he might be becoming something, but alas, it wasn't meant to be and his career kind of spiraled to an underwhelming conclusion.  However it's almost impossible to look back on this guy with any kind of bad feelings.  He was a guy who came and gave it everything he had whenever he was on the court, and never let playing time get to him in any way you could see or hear about it.  Good dude.

13.  Lawrence McKenzie (2006-2008).
-  McKenzie ranks high because even though he was only a Gopher for two years he was pretty much the man both of those years, averaging 13.3 points per game, and led the Gophers to the NIT in Tubby's first year which seemed like an impossibility following the disaster that was the final Monson/Molinari year and suddenly everything seemed possible and we were on our way and we could build this dream together standing strong forever nothing's gonna stop us now.  Or whatever.

12.  Maurice Walker (2010-2015).
-  Walker played for 17 years as a Gopher, and that kind of time is tough to forget.  I also think he might have lost some weight once Pitino came in, but I'm not sure I thought I heard that somewhere though.  Seriously though, the first time I saw Walker play as a freshman I could tell right away he had a great feel for the game.  You know how a lot of big men get the ball on the block and go right into score mode?  Walker didn't, he saw the court amazingly well, although it's not backed up by his assist numbers I stand by what I saw.  Injuries and weight issues (perhaps related) robbed him of some athleticism and explosiveness, and who knows what might have been?  He was clearly a hard worker, just looking at his weight loss and free throws, and I believe he could have developed an outside shot at some point.  This would be a good guy to take a do over on, if you could do such as that.

11.  Spencer Tollackson (2004-2008).
-  No bonus points for being the radio guy for the Gophers, though not because I dislike him or anything - I actually like when he weights in from the player's perspective on things, even if he's behind only Paul Allen on the homer list.  That actually kind of sums up his playing career - a little bit annoying and a little bit likable.  Similar to Walker, he was clearly a hard worker who wanted to win.  I remember him completely revamping his free throw form to try to fix that issue (didn't work) and going from a garbage man to someone with a variety of moves.  Unfortunately, all that hard work to develop those moves didn't really work because he didn't have the natural talent to finish.  Clearly worked at it though, which is cool.

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