Upon Minnesota’s hiring of Richard Pitino we wrote COULD RICHARD PITINO BRING A STAR FORWARD TO MINNESOTA? (April 3, 2013). The article discussed FIU-bound Jonathan Holton and his JUCO teammate Kevin Thomas, noting that, “[p]ower forward is a position of need for next year’s team and Pitino could potentially deliver in a major way.”
Late Night Hoops visited a Palm Beach State (Fla.) practice several months prior to the article and believed either player could be provide a significant boost to the roster.
As things turned out, Holton wound up at West Virginia and Kevin Thomas at Troy. Let’s take a look at how they are performing this season.
The state of Minnesota continues to produce impressive basketball talent, including those who stay home and play for the Gophers. However, with so many skilled players and some excellent high school and AAU programs, there are numerous student-athletes from the state that join Division I programs across the country.
In 2012-13, a number of Minnesotans will be difference makers at their respective schools. Today, we highlight several players who look primed to take sizable steps forward in their collegiate careers.
Marshall Bjorklund, North Dakota State
2011-12: 26.2 mpg, 11.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg
Not recognized nationally or in Minnesota as much as is probably warranted. Extremely efficient offensive player who shot 67.1% FG% last year. Bjorklund doesn’t turn the ball over and is a very good on the offensive boards Tough, solid interior guy. The Gophers will host NDSU on December 11.
Alec Brown, UW-Green Bay
2011-12: 31.3 mpg, 13.8 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 89 blk
Now a veteran at UWGB, he’ll need to lead a UWGB team that should be much improved compared to last year’s 15-15 team. His game should continue to expand under third-year head coach Brian Wardle (Marquette, 2001). It’s a huge year for both Brown and Wardle and one in which both of them are capable of earning national recognition. With his skills and a bit more bulk, Brown could find himself on NBA draft boards.
Quietly very productive off the bench last year, he’ll look to prove just how good he can be in 2012-13. Zags center Robert Sacre was drafted by the Lakers this summer, giving Dower a great opportunity to impress.
High-flying 6’6” forward played his first year of D1 basketball last year at Oregon with Gopher transfer Devoe Joseph. Emory is a big time athlete that will regularly make the highlight reel.
Ross Travis, Penn State
2011-12: 17.9 mpg, 4.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg
With Tim Frazier on the team and transfer D.J. Newbill now eligible, Travis may not see his offensive usage go up tremendously, but he’ll be improved as a sophomore and should have a strong career at PSU. Minnesota plays Penn State in Minneapolis on either March 2 or 3 (date to be determined).
Moats didn’t see much playing time on a highly talented and senior-heavy team last year, but will be called upon often this year.
Kevin Noreen, West Virginia
2011-12: 12.0 mpg, 2.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg
Received a medical hardship waiver for 2010-11 season and played just 23 games last year before breaking an ankle. Noreen can be a prolific scorer and a match up problem for opponents at 6’10”.
In addition to the names above, there are returning players that look to build on their past success at the Division I level and may already have a bit more name recognition with followers of college basketball than those players listed above:
Mike Muscala, Bucknell, Sr, F/C: 17.0 ppg, 9.1 rpg. Muscala has impressed every year, but was superb as a junior. A strong senior season for the Bison could help his chances of reaching the NBA.
Nate Wolters, South Dakota St., Sr, G: 21.2 ppg, 5.9 apg, 5.1 rpg. Wolters is an ultra-productive point guard with good size. Some NBA teams will want to consider him next summer. Wolters & SDSU visit Williams Arena on December 4.
Trent Lockett, Marquette, Sr, G: 13.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg (with Arizona State). Big guard could be a difference maker in Milwaukee.
Jared Berggren, Wisconsin, Sr, F/C: 10.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg. Versatile 6’10” big man looks to build on solid 2011-12 performance. The Gophers play at Wisconsin January 26 and host the Badgers on February 14.
Mike Bruesewitz, Wisconsin, Sr, F: 5.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg. Bruesewitz is a high-energy worker who may increase his offensive production now that fellow Minnesotan Jordan Taylor has graduated.