The last month for Golden Gopher basketball has not been an exciting one for Gopher fans.
First, they had to watch the Gophers stumble their way out of NCAA Tournament contention, lose in the first round of the Big Ten tournament, and then even miss an invitation to the NIT.
To make things worse, they had to watch rival Wisconsin advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
Amidst this misery, however, Gopher fans received two pieces of good news in the past week. The first announcement came when Junior College point guard Julian Welch informed Tubby Smith and the Gophers that he will be wearing Maroon and Gold in Minneapolis next winter.
Secondly, it was recently announced that Gopher recruit Andre Hollins was the recipient of this year’s Mr. Basketball award for the state of Tennessee.
Julian Welch will provide leadership and scoring for a team that failed to produce from the guard positions this year, outside of senior Blake Hoffarber. He also answers the question of who will start at point guard for the Gophers next season.
Welch started his collegiate career at University of California-Davis where he averaged 7.8 points in 18.5 minutes per game. These efforts, combined with his 35.1 percent shooting from three-point range, earned him honors as the Big West Freshman of the Year.
His next stop was Yuba Community College in California, where Welch averaged 19 points and five assists per game. He was consequently named the Bay Valley Conference MVP for 2010-2011.
The Gophers are hoping Welch can translate these efforts into success at the Big Ten level. Most importantly, they are hoping for a leader who can stabilize the guard position and provide minutes at a position where there are no other upperclassmen.
One underclassman who should benefit from the arrival of Julian Welch is incoming freshman guard Andre Hollins. Not only will Hollins be able to play his natural shooting guard position, but he also will also have less pressure on himself due to the arrival of Welch.
Hollins received some great news last week in receiving the award of Mr. Basketball for the state of Tennesee. One of the finalists for this award was Rivals.com five-star forward Adonis Thomas, who is headed to Memphis next year.
Hollins helped lead White Station High School to a 30-7 record, including a 46 point performance against national powerhouse Findlay Prep.
Many believe he will be coach Tubby Smith’s best recruit yet during his time at Minnesota. Hollins is also an excellent student, as shown by his offers to Stanford and Harvard.
The arrival of Welch will hopefully allow Hollins to play more of his natural shooting guard position and give them an offensive boost that was badly missed in the 2010-2011 campaign.
Combine these two additions with the final incoming freshman, Joe Coleman—recently named Mr. Basketball for the state of Minnesota—and Minnesota fans have something to be excited about, despite an otherwise disappointing March.