Minnesota talent dominates this year’s Gophers squad


When Minnesota opens the 2005-06 men’s basketball season Friday, Adam Boone and Maurice Hargrow are expected to start at guards and Dan Coleman at starting forward. When in recent memory have we seen three-fifths of the Gophers’ tip-off lineup composed of Twin Cities kids?

Boone and Coleman are from Minneapolis, as are newcomers Lawrence McKenzie and Brandon Smith. Hargrow hails from St. Paul. Throw in suburbanites Jamal Abu-Shamala (Shakopee), Spencer Tollackson (Chaska), Zach Puchtel (Minnetonka) and Ryan Saunders (Medina), and this year’s Gopher squad, with 10 of its 15 players from the state, is a first in this century, and perhaps the first in a long stretch of the previous century as well.

“I think it is a positive thing,” says Head Coach Dan Monson. “This is your first and foremost important recruiting ground, and you have to keep the local guys who want to be a part of what you have going.”

Even more so, seeing so many city players at the “U,” a place that for years shunned them like the plague, is surprisingly refreshing.

“Dan Monson has a lot to do with these guys over here,” notes Rene Pulley, founder and director of the Howard Pulley Panthers prep basketball program. “His predecessors, I believe, didn’t believe in Minnesota and their talent.”

Now in his seventh season, Monson declares, “This team is going as far as the local guys —the Moes (Hargrow), the Boones, Brandon, Dan and all those guys —can take us, and you supplement them with guys like J’son (Stamper from New York) and other outstate players.”

This is Boone’s and Hargrow’s final college season; this past February, the 6’-2” Boone received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA after sitting out last season due to surgery to repair a torn biceps tendon in his right arm. He previously sat out the 2002-03 season after transferring from the University of North Carolina.

The 6’-5” Hargrow attended the “U” for two seasons before transferring to Arkansas midway during the 2004 season but later returned that summer. He also didn’t play last season.

“I learned some things sitting on the sidelines,” says Boone, who has earned his Bachelor’s degree in economics and plans to have his Master’s in sports management next spring. “But at the same time, I was three to four months away from the game.”

Hargrow, who is majoring in family social science, says he is a more mature player than the one who suddenly left the “U” during the 2004 season. “You learn from your mistakes,” he says. “You progress in life, and by doing so, I progressed in basketball.”

The last time Boone and Hargrow played together was the summer of 1998 with the Panthers. “That was the most successful team we had in Pulley history,” notes their coach Joe Hyser, the head coach at Minneapolis South. However, the two never played together in the same backcourt: “I was more a ‘3-man’,” recalls Hargrow.

Adds Monson, “Those two probably have played as much basketball as any two guys I have had in my seven years in the program. They are friends, first and foremost, and they grew up playing basketball together. I think it’s neat that they get to finish their career together.”

But before any swan songs are sung, Boone and Hargrow are relishing the opportunity of playing together one more time. “This is the last year, and it’s crunch time,” Hargrow says. “You always want to leave with a bang.”

Ashley Ellis-Milan is the first St. Paul player on the Gophers’ women squad since Swantreca Taylor in 1999. “I chose Minnesota because I am very close to [my] family,” says Ellis-Milan, who is out for the season because of a knee injury.

She hopes to attract more locals to the Barn: “When I was in high school, I brought the community into St. Paul Central [where she graduated from this summer]. That is going to be my job here —to bring the community into Williams Arena. I will love it when that happens.”

“I really don’t care where they are from, farms or from the city, to be honest; I’m looking for the best players,” says Women’s Head Coach Pam Borton. “Ashley just happens to be in the city, [but] if she had been on a farm five hours away from Minnesota, I still would have brought her in.”

“I think it’s great that we can come to a big-time local school and see kids we’ve known and seen play,” concludes Pulley. “There was a time when we didn’t see that.”

Gopher notes…

…Doneila Jackson, a six-foot redshirt freshman outside hitter, made her Big Ten debut last Friday in games three and four of a 3-2 loss to Northwestern. She recorded a kill and a block assist. “We played her tonight because she has so much energy,” says Volleyball Coach Mike Hebert. “I thought she conducted herself with a lot of poise.”

Says Jackson, who recently switched to middle blocker, “I knew I had to bring some type of fire for the team.”

…Six of the 16 seniors who played their final home football game for Minnesota last Saturday are Black.

…Ken Foxworth took himself out of consideration for the vacant position of associate athletic director for community relations. Athletic Director Joel Maturi says that a Black person will be hired for the newly created post.