After making the NCAA Tournament for the first time in his current four-year tenure at Minnesota, head coach Richard Pitino returns a good chunk of last year's roster into the 2017-18 season.
With all these players coming back next year, the expectations will be high for the Gophers, as they will most likely come into the year ranked in the top 25 or even better. While future success is imminent, one question remains.
Will a Minnesota player be selected in the NBA Draft?
The last Gopher to hear their name called on draft night was forward Kris Humphries who was chosen 14th overall by the Utah Jazz back in 2005. During his 12-year stint in the NBA, Humphries averaged 6.7 points and 5.4 points per game while playing for a total of nine teams in his career.
At the conclusion of this season, Humphries decided to hang up the sneakers and announce his retirement from the NBA. With Humphries deciding to end his career, there are ZERO Minnesota Gophers currently on an NBA roster.
While Richard Pitino has shown he can turn around a program in the win-loss column, will any of his players end the Minnesota-NBA Draft drought?
Over the past year, Nate Mason has been one of the most improved players and leaders in the Big Ten. This past season, Mason averaged 15.2 points and 5.0 assists per game and 81 percent from the free-throw line as a junior.
Though Mason had an impressive stat line this year, the one area of concern is his consistency on offense as he held a 37 percent field goal percentage and shot 36 percent from beyond the three-point arc. Another question mark with Mason is his size for his position. Standing at 6-foot-2, Mason is not the ideal length for a score-first point guard like he is.
Mason's shot selection and score first mentality plays a key role in his struggles on the offensive end but has handles that allow him to get to the rim at will which makes him a promising prospect. If Mason can improve his shooting percentages and prove he's more than a scoring point guard this upcoming season, he can become a late early/mid second round draft pick in 2018.
As the highest ranked recruit to date in the Rich Pitino era, there are a lot of high expectations for rising sophomore Amir Coffey. In his freshman season for the Gophers, Coffey averaged 12.2 points per game and shot very well from the field at 45 percent and 38 percent from three-point land.
At 6-foot-8, Coffey is listed as a guard which makes him a nightmare for defenders as he's able to score from the perimeter and is very fluid for his size. Along with his scoring ability, Coffey is also a great passer, and his height lets him see the floor better than most guards.
Although he hasn't created a huge buzz around NBA teams, Coffey's point forward archetype could get him some attention in the next couple years. If Coffey can carry his efficiency from his freshman year over to his second season and build on his numbers, we might start to see Coffey's name appear on a couple of draft boards next season as the year progresses.
If you're a big HoopMixTape or BallisLife fan on YouTube, then you've heard of Isaiah Washington, a member of "Jelly Fam." From the Bronx, Washington is a classic New York point guard who plays with passion and doesn't back down from anyone.
A 6-foot-1 point guard and the 66th ranked recruit in the 2017 ESPN100 rankings, Washington has flashy handles and a natural scoring ability from anywhere on the floor which makes him a tough matchup. Similar to Mason, Washington is mainly a scoring point guard but also can create for teammates which will earn him minutes alongside the senior Mason.
Don't expect to hear Washington's around NBA Draft time next year. But, many Minnesota and college basketball fans are excited to see what Washington can do at the next level and whether or not he can become the next great New York point guard.
Not only do these three Minnesota players have potential to play in the NBA, but also Reggie Lynch and Jordan Murphy could very well work their way on an NBA roster if all the pieces fall together.