May 15, 2013, 10:54 AM EDT
Minnesota got some bad news on late on Tuesday night as Joe Coleman, a starting guard for the Gophers, asked for his release to transfer out of the program.
With Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams graduating, Coleman, who averaged 8.7 points as a sophomore, is the third starter that played for Tubby Smith last season that is gone. He’s a big, athletic guard, and while his departure will sting, he was as inconsistent as Minnesota was a season ago. He struggled mightily during the second half of the season.
Things aren’t all bad for new head coach Richard Pitino, as he found out on Wednesday morning that he would have someone to replace Coleman immediately.
Malik Smith, a JuCo transfer that played his junior year at Florida International, announced that he would be transferring to Minnesota. He’ll be eligible immediately since he has just one year of eligibility remaining and FIU is ineligible for the postseason. The NCAA has a bylaw that allows for transfers to become immediately eligible if their current institution is banned from postseason play for the remainder of their eligibility. It’s how Alex Oriakhi was able to play at Missouri immediately last season.
Smith is a 6-foot-2 scoring guard that averaged 14.1 points last season, hitting 36.2% of his threes while shooting more than eight per game. He’ll fit in nicely alongside Andre and Austin Hollins, and he’s already spent a season playing in Pitino’s system.
In other words, losing Coleman may sting, but replacing him with Smith certainly eases the pain.
Minnesota is going to need their back court to be their strength if they are going to compete in the Big Ten next season. Without Mbakwe and Williams, their front line will be made up of Elliot Eliason, Mo Walker and Oto Osenieks, none of who will strike fear in the heart of big men like Adreian Payne or Mitch McGary.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
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