Meet the young Gophers Print
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Friday, 17 October 2008 12:33
NCAAB Headline News


 MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -Ralph Sampson III hasn't played a game yet at Minnesota, yet hardly a day goes by that he doesn't get recognized while walking around campus.
Standing 6-foot-11, of course, will get you noticed in a hurry.
``I'll be walking down the street and people on the other side of the street will be calling my name and waving to me,'' Sampson said Friday. ``It's a very nice feeling when people recognize you. You don't even know who they are, but they come up and they know you.''
A lot of people know Minnesota's 2008 recruiting class. After leading the Gophers to an 11-win improvement in his first season at Minnesota, coach Tubby Smith landed a group of big names that most analysts ranked in the top 25 in the country.
The class has a little bit of everything.
- Size? There's Sampson, the son of former Virginia great and NBA mainstay Ralph Sampson, and 6-foot-11 Colton Iverson of Yankton, S.D.
- Quickness? Point guard Devoe Joseph was the Canadian high school player of the year.
unior college players in guard Devron Bostick and forward Paul Carter.
The well-rounded newcomers have immediately upgraded the talent in the Twin Cities and have raised the expectations of a program that fell on hard times before Smith was lured away from Kentucky last year.
``I know there's high expectations for us, as there is with any recruit that comes into a major program to play basketball,'' said Carter, an athletic forward who spent one year at Missouri State-West Plains before transferring to Minnesota. ``I think that's good for us. It will definitely push us to work hard and not take a day off at all.''
Smith has not been shy about praising the youngsters, saying they should complement an almost equally young set of returning players that includes just two seniors - reserve forward Jamal Abu-Shamala and center Jon Williams.
``I expect our incoming players to contribute right away,'' Smith said. ``How much? That's up to them.
``Obviously we need size and better rebounding. I think in Colton, he's shown that ability to play physical inside and rebound the ball. Both he and Ralph are two inches taller than anybody we had last year so that helps a lot.''
Most of the newcomers have been in town all summer trying to get to know returning players including sophomores Blake Hoffarber and Al Nolen who had impressive freshman seasons last year.
t fine.
``They're a good group of guys,'' junior Lawrence Westbrook said. ``Coach Smith wouldn't have brought them here if they weren't good players. I think the best thing about it is we get along so well off the court. That's going to lead to things on the court. Because like a family we hang out all the time.''
All five of them, especially the three freshmen, have had to get used to the more strenuous workouts, the college classes and being away from home.
``I got acclimated pretty fast,'' Joseph said. ``It's a nice place. Campus is beautiful. It feels like home. I love it here.''
Iverson was one of the first to commit to coming, then watched the rest of the pieces fall into place in an exciting summer for the Gophers.
``When the other guys were committing, it was a great feeling,'' he said. ``It's nice to be part of a class like this, one of the most talked-about in the nation. It's just fun to be a part of, and we want to come out and do what we can.''
All the talk and hype has set the bar pretty high for Smith's first true recruiting class - by the time he was hired in March of 2007, most of the prized recruits in the country had already made up their minds.
Carter, for one, says bring it on.
ork hard, but we have to work even harder.''
 

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