P.J.R.: Mathieu has been immediate plus for U, as expected
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
Phil Mackey was again expressing his belief that Rich Pitino has produced an overachieving basketball team in his first season as Gophers coach. This was taking place from 10 to 11 a.m. on Tuesday, during a discussion with Judd Zulgad and Mike Grimm, the outstanding deliverer of play-by-play for the Gophers.
Among the young man's accolades was that one year ago point guard DeAndre Mathieu would have been playing a game against Scottsdale Community College, and now he was preparing to lead the Gophers into Purdue to start the second half of the Big Ten schedule.
Through last Friday, Mackey had been my partner here at 1500ESPN, and I heard that same factoid:
Mathieu was playing for Central Arizona J.C. vs. such-and-such two-year college a year ago, and that's another good reason we should be astounded by the competitiveness the Gophers have shown with Pitino.
Basically, I let Phil repeat that praise for a couple of reasons: A) There were other items to discuss/argue over; and B) I had not done the research to support my theory that this wasn't amazing at all ... that first-team, junior college All-Americans are supposed to be able to play and find success immediately.
Mathieu was among the 10 players selected to the National Junior College Athletic Association's first team in 2013. Nine were seniors.
The freshman, 6-3 guard Kadeem Allen from Hutchinson C.C., has signed with Arizona for next season in what's considered another recruiting coup for Wildcats coach Sean Miller. At last look, Allen was leading the Jayhawk West division in Kansas with 28.5 points per game.
The other All-Americans joining Mathieu on the first team last spring are in this position a year later:
*CHRIS JONES, a 5-10 guard who played JUCO at Northwest Florida State, has made 13 starts for Rick Pitino at Louisville. The fact he's been getting time with the veteran guards on that roster says Jones has been an immediate success for the defending national champions.
*BOBBY HUNTER, a 5-10 guard from Santa Fe College, is leading Illinois State in minutes and scoring in Missouri Valley Conference play. The Mo Valley isn't the Big Ten, but it's not bad.
*SKYLER HALFORD, a 6-1 guard from Salt Lake C.C., is a starter at BYU. He scored 28 last month and was the West Coast Conference player of the week. Of course, 28 might be close to his age, since he's already completed a Mormon mission and has played JUCO ball.
*DARIUS CARTER, a 6-7 forward from Vincennes [Ind.], is a much-used non-starter for Wichita State, unbeaten in the Mo Valley and likely to receive a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
*JAREKIOUS BRADLEY, a 6-5 forward for East Mississippi C.C., is averaging 20.7 points per game for Southeast Missouri. The Redhawks play in the Ohio Valley, which isn't the Big Ten but is a competitive league.
*YANICK MOREIRA, a 6-10 center for South Plains College in Texas, was the starting center and third leading scorer through 14 games at SMU before suffering a knee injury.
*JORDAN JOHNSON, a 6-1 guard for East Georgia State, has been a bust at Tennessee Tech, which has a mediocre team in the Ohio Valley.
*JAMEEL McKAY, a 6-9 forward from Indian Hills in Iowa, enrolled at Marquette, bailed out quickly, and has landed at Fred Hoiberg's Transfer U. ... also known as Iowa State. He will have 1 ½ years of eligibility for the Cyclones, starting in January 2015.
Bottom line: Division I JUCO All-Americans are far from sure things, but any time a coach brings such a player into his program - whether it is Rick Pitino or Rich Pitino - he anticipates an immediate contributor.
DeAndre Mathieu has been one, and my comment on this is the Twitter rallying cry: "As expected.''
--PATRICK JAMES REUSSE.