By Charles Hallman
The MSR recently got a few one-on-one moments with Minnesota Timberwolves rookie guard Ricky Rubio. Considering how the local and out-of-town media have virtually fallen to their knees, anointing him as the NBA’s Justin Bieber, it was very surprising that we were able to ask him a few questions without the usual horde around.
At first impression, what Wolves Coach Rick Adelman calls “outside hype” seems not to be affecting Rubio at the moment. “He’s a great kid and wants to learn how to play,” says the coach. “But sometimes he tries to thread that pass — in our league, teams will take that away. He gets a little bit too creative.”
Asked to comment on that, Rubio says, “I want to do the right pass because I want to win.” He says he’s still learning how to play in the NBA.
“[Players] are physically so strong, so you have to be ready on defense,” says Rubio, who adds that he loves the league’s style of play. “Here you can run the floor — [it is] more open. You can play the pick and roll, and see the floor. I came here to play against the best players in the world.”
Rubio was drafted in 2009 after playing in Spain since 2005. Asked if he has any regrets about waiting two years before joining the Timberwolves, he says, “When you make a decision, you have to go 100 percent.”
“It seems like he’s been playing pro forever,” notes Adelman of Rubio. “A lot of guys who come into this league have a special skill, but you have to find a way for them to use that.” In Rubio’s case, the young man must improve his scoring, says the first-year coach.
“The key in this league is you got to make open shots. No different than with Tony [Parker] when he first came in — once he started making open shots, there is not much you can do with it. We talk about him [Rubio] getting to the basket and finishing so they [opponents] are not playing him as pass-first.
“He is not near where Parker is today,” says Adelman. “He’s got to learn that.”
College hoops notes
The Big Ten is one of four conferences in the nation with nine or more women’s teams with at least 10 wins, including Minnesota. Furthermore, the league is one of three around the nation with four squads with 13 or more wins.
Overall the conference ranks fourth in RPI and third in overall strength of schedule.
Gopher senior guard Kiara Buford last week became the school’s 12th all-time leading scorer. She surpassed Ashley Ellis-Milan (1,281 points, 2006-10). Both women are St. Paul Central graduates.
Also last week, teammate Rachel Banham became the first Big Ten player to win both player and freshman of the week honors this season. The last U of M player to win top weekly player honors was Ellis-Milan in January 2009. It was Banham’s second top frosh honor this season as well.
Out in front
Ohio State’s Tayler Hill (Minneapolis South) leads the Big Ten in minutes played per game (39.3 minutes); double-figure scoring streaks (16); and 20-point games (10). She also is 12th among the nation’s top 25 in scoring.
Four of the nation’s top 25 teams are coached by Black women: Rutgers, Georgetown, South Carolina, and Penn State. Their combined win-loss overall records (as of last week) is 51-11.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.