Scoops: Sept. 10
Created: 09/10/2012 12:58 PM KSTP.com
By: Darren Wolfson
Gophers men's basketball coach Tubby Smith has suffered his first loss of the 2012-13 season.
In fact, it's multiple defeats.
With four scholarships to play with for the 2013 class -- Trevor Mbakwe, Rodney Williams, Andre Ingram and Julian Welch all will depart -- Smith is swinging-and-missing more than White Sox slugger Adam Dunn.
Nick Fuller, a forward from Sun Prairie, Wis., chose Nebraska instead. Matt Thomas, a guard from Onalaska, Wis., is going to Iowa State. And Brewster Academy forward Kyle Washington, who used to go Benilde-St. Margaret's and still has plenty of AAU ties to the metro area, eliminated the Gophers from consideration recently according to a source.
Smith's recruiting issues and his lackluster success in his five years have not gone unnoticed by the new administration.
There was even an internal high-level meeting about the men's basketball team this week.
Bottom line: the pressure is on Smith big-time to produce in the next two years. If he doesn't, the Shaka Smart-to-Minnesota rumors will begin in earnest.
• Rashad Vaughn, a 2014 recruiting target from Robbinsdale Cooper High School, took a visit with Eden Prairie's Andre Wallace to Iowa State last weekend. Vaughn is a regular in the Gophers basketball office, stopping in to chat mostly with assistant Vince Taylor.
• Gophers assistant Ron Jirsa is the main recruiter for DeLaSalle's Reid Travis, who will have an interesting decision to make. Travis is star quarterback that Alabama wants to host for a visit and who Ohio State recently inquired about. Will he choose basketball or football? Travis told me recently he'll make that call next summer or fall.
• The Gophers men's basketball team will have design alterations done to its uniforms for this year.
• The Gophers are in the process of booking an out-of-country trip for 2014. NCAA rules allow teams to schedule games prior to the season against foreign opponents once every four years. The Gophers went to Canada in September 2010. The extra practice time is huge.
• Director of Athletics Norwood Teague is making progress with donor T. Denny Sanford for a basketball practice facility. At this point, Sanford wants to see rock-solid conceptual designs. Teague is in the process of hiring a firm to deliver said need.
• One nugget to add to Judd Zulgad's Vikings 2018/2019/2020 Super Bowl bid story: the NFL won't play the game in a stadium that seats fewer than 80,000 people. In other words, if the initial plan comes to fruition and the new Vikings stadium will have a 70,000-seat capacity, they will have to build it knowing seats will have to be added at a later date.
• More proof that the Twin Cities is a diehard NFL market: the Giants-Cowboys opening game on Wednesday night from 9 to 10 p.m. had double the TV audience of the other three local stations combined. To further expound, the 16 Vikings games on Channels 4 and 9 and the NFL Network won't be touched in the ratings by any other TV show/sporting event.
• There was a local connection refereeing in the Giants-Cowboys game: Line judge Josh Thurow. He's a teacher and coach at Minnehaha Academy and an official for MIAC games. Look for him again Week 2 when the Saints visit the Panthers.
• Twins outfielder Josh Willingham is open to a one-year contract extension. Currently signed through 2014 at $7 million per season, he's searching for a bit more long-term security and is willing to accept below market value. Even so, don't expect the Twins to approach him until after next season, if at all. Willingham is interested in buying a house in the Twin Cities and establishing firm roots. He currently is renting Jim Thome's old house.
• Twins senior vice president of personnel Mike Radcliff returns this weekend from South Korea. He's there scouting the Under-18 International World Championship.
• The Twins lead baseball with nine wins when allowing seven runs or more.
• It was the Dodgers who claimed Twins first baseman Justin Morneau in August just days before they completed a blockbuster deal with Boston for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.
• Wild forward Zach Parise continues to get on-ice work in at the St. Louis Park arena with other NHL players. He also trains at Total Hockey in Minnetonka.
• Blackhawks defenseman and former Gopher Nick Leddy (Eden Prairie HS) recently got back from a trip to Sweden. He was there training with some of his teammates.
• Cooper defensive back Malik Rucker had a long chat with Gophers coach Jerry Kill the other day. But he's still a solid verbal commitment to Iowa. He'll be at the Iowa State-Iowa game Saturday in Iowa City.
• I'm told the new Wolves minority owner, who will have a 25% share, is a name we will absolutely recognize. What isn't quite confirmed yet is if it's one individual or a group. This entity has promised owner Glen Taylor that he/they won't move the team when they take over majority reign. Taylor hasn't set a timetable for that transaction.
• Free agent center Hassan Whiteside got positive feedback from the Wolves after working out in front of executives David Kahn, R.J. Adelman, and Rob Babcock Thursday. No decision on a contract offer has been made yet. The Wolves are intent on adding a big man before training camp starts Oct. 2 in Mankato.
• Free agent center Mehmet Okur is still on the Wolves radar. However, he has no interest in signing for the veteran's minimum. Barring a trade, that's all the Wolves have to offer.
• Wolves players Kevin Love and Derrick Williams have been working out in Beverly Hills with famous trainer Gunnar Peterson. Love weighs 243 pounds, having put on some muscle since the end of last season. Peterson said Love is such an animal that on Thursday he got a hard workout in at 5:30, went immediately to his basketball training at 7:30, then was back in the gym on Friday morning, his 24th birthday, for another grueling workout at 9 a.m. As for Williams, Peterson said he's in the low 230s for his weight and that "his work ethic in my gym is terrific." Williams, unlike other players, deals with Peterson himself. He doesn't have a member of his entourage set up the sessions. He hasn't missed a workout all offseason.
• Wolves center Greg Stiemsma didn't go to Montenegro in August to train with center Nikola Pekovic. The original plan was for him to join assistant Bill Bayno on the excursion. Stiemsma is said to be doing well after battling feet issues last season with Boston.
• Nothing concrete, but Kahn has spoken with free agent Mickael Pietrus' camp. He could become an option if a guard is moved in the next few weeks.
• Expect the Twins 2013 schedule to be released as soon as next week.