On Monday afternoon, Minnesota coach Tubby Smith told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Myron P. Metcalf that junior guard Devoe Joseph would be suspended for the Gophers' game versus Indiana on Tuesday. That was maybe slightly disconcerting for Gophers fans, but hey, players get suspended all the time. Joseph would be back soon enough, right?
Not so fast. After hearing from sources that Joseph would be held out of the lineup because he had told the team he planned to transfer, Metcalf received an e-mail from Joseph's mother, Connie Joseph, at 3:49 Tuesday morning. Connie Joseph told Metcalf that her son has definitely decided to transfer, that he had considered the option for a while before reaching his decision this week and that there's "no turning back."
She said Devoe Joseph called Tubby Smith before the team's next practice and informed him of his decision to leave the program. Connie Joseph said her son skipped practice over the weekend because "once you've made this difficult decision, the best thing is just to move forward." She said her son isn't suspended, as some outlets reported, but has decided to leave the team.
"No, there’s [no turning back]," she said Tuesday. "I'm going with him [Tuesday] morning to pick up his release papers. He wishes the team well. It’s a tough thing." She added: "I don’t expect anything to change."
Joseph's mother wouldn't discuss exactly why her son was transferring. It wouldn't seem to be a playing-time thing, as seems to be the case so frequently with midseason transfers. Joseph's minutes have gone down in the Gophers' past two games, but he's still played 21 minutes per game in those outings, even as guard Al Nolen has returned to the starting lineup after injury. That's hardly the sort of drop-off you'd expect to prompt such a sudden and drastic decision. There's still a chance Joseph doesn't leave the program, of course, but it certainly isn't looking good.
Whatever the reason, Joseph's absence will rob the Gophers of some much-needed backcourt depth and an already established contributor. After emerging toward the tail end of his sophomore season, Joseph has been part of the Gophers' balanced attack in 2011, scoring 11.3 points and dishing 3.5 assists per game. It will also mark another difficult chapter in Tubby Smith's past two years in Minnesota, which has been marked by boosts in talent and overall improvement but also by challenging personnel issues. Last season, those issues ranged from Royce White's lost year and eventual transfer, to Trevor Mbakwe's yearlong suspension for his role in a felony assault, to Al Nolen's late-season academic ineligibility.
This was the year Minnesota put all that behind it, rallied its deep reserve of talent and made a run at the Big Ten title. Now 0-2 in the Big Ten, more personnel problems is the last thing these Gophers needed.