What Marcus Carr returning means for the Gophers

Marcus Carr #5 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers drives against Robbie Beran #31 of the Northwestern Wildcats in the first half during the first round of the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 11, 2020 in Indianapol ((Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images))

University of Minnesota men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino got some very good news last Friday: His starting point guard from last season is returning to the program.

Marcus Carr announced shortly after the season ended that he was declaring for the NBA Draft. He didn’t hire an agent, and left open the possibility of coming back school for his junior season. Last Friday, he withdrew from the NBA Draft. He also said he’s dedicating this season to Duane Notice, a friend who recently suffered an Achilles’ tendon injury playing professionally in Canada.

"After careful consideration and discussion with my family, I have decided to remove my name from consideration for the NBA Draft," Carr said in a statement. "I am excited to rejoin my Gopher teammates soon and get ready for the upcoming season. I am thankful for all those who provided feedback and guidance during this process. Additionally, I am dedicating this season to my brother Duane Notice."

The NCAA’s deadline to withdraw from the NBA Draft was delayed to Aug. 3 this year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many prospects who wanted to get feedback from scouts and NBA front office personnel couldn’t work out in front of teams due to Covid-19 concerns, with NBA facilities shut down in the spring and early summer.

Carr started every game last season for the Gophers and averaged 37 minutes per game to lead the Big Ten. He averaged 15.4 points and 6.7 assists per game on the way to earning Third Team All-Big Ten honors. He set a single-season record with 207 assists, and his 6.7 assists per game ranked second in the Big Ten and ninth nationally.

"We are excited that Marcus is returning after testing the waters," Pitino said in a statement. “I believe he is one of the best point guards in the country and is ready to have a terrific junior year. His leadership is vital in our program and in our locker room."

Pitino and the Gophers hope that’s not the only good news they hear before the season starts. They have filed waivers for immediate eligibility for both center Liam Robbins and forward Both Gach.

Robbins, a 7-foot, 235-pound center, left Drake after last season to join the Gophers. His uncle, Ed Conroy, is Gophers’ associate head coach Ed Conroy. His cousin, Hunt, is also on the basketball roster. Robbins averaged 14 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots per game for Drake last season, and was a Second Team All-Missouri Valley Conference pick last year. He had received interest from several top programs across the country before choosing Minnesota.

Gach, an Austin native, is a 6-6, 183-pound wing who spent the last two seasons at Utah. He averaged 10.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists for the Utes last year, including scoring 19 points in a non-conference match-up against Minnesota. Gach picked Minnesota over Iowa State, Creighton, Auburn and Maryland.

Pitino and the Gophers are cautiously optimistic that Gach and Robbins will each be immediately eligible for the 2021 season, whenever it starts.