Quick guard DeAndre Mathieu perfect fit for Gophers
NOV 06, 2013 2:41p ET
The latter, of course, would be junior Andre Hollins, who also shortens his first name for the abbreviated moniker. When forward Andre Ingram was on the team last year, Dre Hollins was "Little Dre" while teammates called Ingram "Big Dre."
Now that the 5-foot-9 Mathieu is on board, the 6-foot-2 Hollins can't be Little Dre anymore, right?
"He was the Little Dre, and now he's the Big Dre. But he's not big, so it's really confusing," said Gophers forward Oto Osenieks.
Added senior Austin Hollins: "I just call them Dre and hope they're not standing next to each other when I say it."
Mathieu and Andre Hollins may share a nickname, but their games are very different. Hollins developed into a scoring threat for the Gophers as a sophomore last year, leading the team with 14.6 points per game while shooting a team-high 41.8 percent from 3-point range. Mathieu, a junior who transferred from Central Arizona College, isn't quite the scoring threat or sharp shooter that Hollins has become -- at least not yet.
What Matthieu does bring is an unmistakable quickness that initially drew first-year Gophers coach Richard Pitino to the diminutive guard. Pitino took the job April 5 with an empty recruiting class and needed to complete his roster. Mathieu was a no-brainer for Pitino, who hopes to run an uptempo offense and full-court pressure on defense.
"When it came to speed and quickness at the front of our press, I thought he was perfect," Pitino said. "I thought he was perfect for the way that we wanted to play. He was a must-have. It was a great get for us that late."
Mathieu, who like Hollins grew up in Tennessee, made an early impression in Minnesota's public scrimmage last month when he scored a game-high 26 points. Perhaps equally as impressive was what Mathieu did in the Gophers' first exhibition game against Cardinal Stritch when he had nine assists and zero turnovers, a sign that he indeed is a good fit to run Pitino's quick-tempo offense.
That system is one of the biggest things that attracted Mathieu to Minnesota. The Gophers were one of his three choices as he left Central Arizona, along with Ole Miss and Pepperdine.
"Coach Pitino and the style of play we're going to play, and then my visit with the guys, just being around them, the relationship I've built with them and know you've got guys like Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins, two really good guards besides you, is what made me come here," Mathieu said. "I'm happy to be here. I never thought I'd be in the Big Ten, playing for the University of Minnesota. It's lovely. Just awesome, an awesome feeling."
Pitino and the Gophers are happy Mathieu is here, too. After two exhibition games, it appears as if Mathieu will begin the season in the starting lineup alongside both Andre and Austin Hollins, Osenieks and center Elliott Eliason, a 7-footer who posed for a picture with Mathieu at the team's media day late last month.
"I didn't realize how short he was, even though he's been here that long," Eliason said. "He's not a very big guy, but he can play basketball."
As a sophomore last year, Mathieu averaged 17.1 points, 6.5 assists and 6.1 rebounds for Central Arizona, which earned him Arizona Community College Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors. He's now ready to take his skills from the junior college level to the big stage of the Big Ten.
That quickness that Mathieu brings is not only an asset on offense, as he's able to slash the lane and score in the paint, but it's a benefit on defense as well. Mathieu is all over the court when the Gophers press their opponents, and he's proven to be a solid on-the-ball defender as well.
"He's going to bother a lot of guards in the Big Ten with his quickness and his defense," said Andre Hollins. "It's hard to stay in front of him off the pick and roll. He makes very good decisions. He gets in the paint, gets a lot of paint touches and he attracts a lot of defense and gets a lot of his teammates open. It's going to be fun to play with him."
After the Gophers' media day, a handful of players were milling around one of the baskets on the Williams Arena court, with a few of them attempting fancy slam dunks. One player received the most raucous reaction of all when he flushed home a windmill dunk, much to the enjoyment of his teammates.
It turns out the biggest dunk came from Mathieu, the Gophers' smallest player. Just don't call him Little Dre.
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