Created: 07/22/2013 2:46 PM KSTP.com
By: Darren Wolfson
The Gophers men's basketball team is expected to release its schedule for the upcoming season this week, according to a team official, and there should be no surprises.
Whether Florida International transfer Rakeem Buckles will take part in the Maui Invitational, a challenging 18-game Big Ten schedule, and more is likely, but work remains.
"There will be NCAA hoops to jump through. It isn't just about his grades," a team source said. "It's not as cut and dry as Malik (Smith) or Joey's (King) case. ... We're still hopeful."
New FIU coach Anthony Evans confirmed Buckles' intentions to head to Minnesota as he addressed the school's student media group.
"There is some interest for Rakeem to go over to Minnesota," Evans said. "It's something he wants to do. You want to be at a place where you feel comfortable with people you like. He came here for coach (Richard) Pitino and he's going to Minnesota, he wants to join him."
If Buckles ultimately ends up at Minnesota, a different source said it will be under the premise that he will be eligible right away. The Gophers aren't expected to take him otherwise.
In the last two years, the 6-7, 215-pound forward has suffered two major knee injuries, a concussion and a broken index finger. If capable of maintaining health, Buckles would likely play major minutes at the big forward position.
Buckles last played for Louisville in 2011-2012, appearing in 11 games. He averaged 4.0 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.
It was a good news, bad news weekend for soon-to-be Hopkins sophomore guard/forward Amir Coffey. As expected, Pitino offered a scholarship to the son of former Gopher Richard Coffey after seeing him Saturday in the Best Buy Classic in Bloomington. The bad: he suffered a cracked tibia, which shouldn't require surgery. His recovery time is approximately six weeks, according to his mother. In talking with Coffey on Thursday, he indicated that his general physician recently told him he should grow to be 6-foot-9. As for that Gophers offer: "Minnesota is a great school," Coffey said. "I grew up around the Gophers because my dad (Richard) went there. I'm always on campus. I love Minnesota."
Shooting guard J.P. Macura, who is in the Lakeville North class of 2014, also played in the Best Buy Classic. He recently got an offer from the Gophers. "They definitely have a chance," Macura said. "I'll spend a lot of time with their players in August. Then I'll decide if I like hanging around them and if it's a good environment. I'll make a decision in September." Macura likes the future of the Gophers under Pitino. "I think he'll turn the program around," Macura said. "He doesn't see me as just a shooter. He sees me playing the game all-around. He thinks I can come in and do good things for the program."
An NBA source suggests that Wolves restricted free agent Nikola Pekovic's camp is looking for Joakim Noah money -- five-years, $60 million. Nobody from the Wolves would confirm that to be the case. A Wolves source last week said they weren't inclined to back away from their four-year offer of approximately $50 million. So the two sides remain in limbo. Look for Flip Saunders, the Wolves president of basketball operations, to meet soon with Pekovic's agents, Jeff Schwartz and Sean Kennedy. A long-term deal -- probably four years -- is still expected to happen. The happy medium could be the Wolves raising their offer with incentive sweeteners. Pekovic is scheduled to play for Montenegro in EuroBasket starting on Sept. 4. Training camp for that starts in a couple weeks. It would be shocking if Pekovic's contract with the Wolves isn't finalized by then.
A Mavericks source said he was shocked center Bernard James cleared waivers: "The kid started 11 games for us. He can play." Any team claiming James would have had to guarantee his $788,872 salary for 2013-2014. Even so, he would have made sense to fill the Wolves' final roster spot.
Buffalo's Thomas Vanek, a free agent next summer, skates regularly at Mariucci Arena in the summer: "I enjoy my time in Buffalo," Vanek said last week. "I'm looking forward to going back. In this business you can't read the internet or the papers too much. If something happens, my agent will call me." Vanek, 29, is referring to his name being included in trade rumors since it will be tough for Buffalo to retain him long-term. Vanek acknowledges that fans have approached him telling him to make plans to be on the Wild. "That's something you laugh it off and move on with your day," he said. One of Vanek's best friends is Wild forward Jason Pominville. The two were teammates in Buffalo before the Wild acquired Pominville last spring. "I played with him for nine years. We lived next door for 7 years," Vanek said. "We're obviously close. We still talk." Like Vanek, Pominville also is set to be a free agent next summer.
Another former Gopher, Dallas defenseman Alex Goligoski, also skates at Mariucci. He's a fan of the Wild. "I think they're solid," he said. "They should be a playoff team. We're in a division with them now. It'll be a good challenge for us. ... Hopefully we can get a rivalry going with them." Goligoski has spoken with Vanek about Dallas' new coach, Lindy Ruff. Vanek played for Ruff in Buffalo.
The Twins aren't necessarily just sellers. They could trade for a player signed beyond this year. "It's a possibility," vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff said. "Nothing is imminent." Radcliff would neither confirm nor deny, but a league source said the Twins have some interest in Houston pitcher Bud Norris. He's under team control through 2015, so it's not a guarantee he goes anywhere. In addition to the Twins, a handful of other teams like him.
Radcliff on the overall state of trade talks: "It's a seller's market. That means it goes to the end (July 31)."
The Red Sox and Braves had scouts at Target Field all weekend. So did the Padres and White Sox, but the belief is that was more general work. The Phillies also had a scout present for a portion of the series against Cleveland.
While talking with Radcliff, I got the obligatory update on top prospect Byron Buxton. Radcliff saw him for a stretch recently at Class A Fort Myers. "He's an outstanding player," Radcliff said. "He's shown so much beyond his tools and skills. He's on a fast trajectory." Radcliff didn't rule out the notion of Buxton ending up at Double-A New Britain before the season finishes.
Radcliff on international free agency: "Always fluid. ... No signing is imminent. ... We have money left. ... We have no plans to trade money."
The Twins are still pursuing Taiwan 18-year-old righthanded pitcher Jen-Ho Tseng. Reports say he's close to a deal with the Cubs. But until the Twins get official word, they're maintaining dialogue with Tseng's camp.
Before the Orioles traded pitcher Jake Arrieta to the Cubs, the Twins had interest.
The Twins' next 20 games are against teams currently under .500. In other words, it's time to see some progress.
The trio of Class of 2014 Minneapolis Washburn running back Jeff Jones, Class of 2014 Chanhassen offensive lineman Frank Ragnow and Class of 2015 Cretin-Derham Hall defensive end Jashon Cornell have talked about playing together with the Gophers. Jones is currently a soft verbal. All three were at a barbecue on campus on Saturday.
Cornell was recently named the No. 1 recruit in the country, according to ESPN. "I have to live up to the hype," Cornell told the Scoops late last week. "I'm not the type of player that likes to be flashy. I lead by my performance. Not by my mouth." He's up to 23 offers, including one from coach Jerry Kill of the Gophers. "I really like the Gophers," Cornell said. "(Kill is) straight up with you. He'll put you in a position to get to the NFL and to graduate from college." Cornell works out with noted local trainer Ted Johnson. He also leans on former Cretin and Iowa Hawkeye defensive end Broderick Binns for advice. "He helps me with hand drills and footwork." Cornell said. The 6-foot-3, 238-pound Cornell will cut his list to 10 schools by the third week of September. He said it's a lock the Gophers make it. Cornell said he runs the 40-yard-dash in 4.67 seconds and bench presses 245 pounds (sets of five reps) with a max of 275. Cornell also will get some carries at running back this season.
East Ridge Class of 2016 quarterback Seth Green was at the Football University Top Gun camp in Ohio over the weekend. It's by invitation only. Green already has offers from Louisville and the Gophers. "Jerry Kill is a great coach," Green told 1500espn.com before leaving for camp. "I love his program. I love what he's trying to build. I think he has put a lot of good people around him."