Minnesota suspends Devoe Joseph

MINNEAPOLIS -- It's a good thing the Minnesota Golden Gophers are used to dealing with adversity because they got another batch of it on the eve of their season opener.

Junior guard Devoe Joseph was suspended indefinitely Thursday night for a violation of team rules, taking the Gophers' most versatile offensive player out of the lineup for the foreseeable future.

Coach Tubby Smith declined to discuss his specific reasons for the suspension, only saying that they were for multiple "off-the-court issues and other things he needs to deal with."

"He's working his way through it," Smith said. "Hopefully he'll do all the things required of him to get back in good grace."

Smith did not set a timetable for Joseph's return, but did say he will not be making the trip with the team to Puerto Rico next week to play in a tournament that includes North Carolina and West Virginia.

"It's a long-term thing," Smith said. "But I see him doing it. I just hope he can do it."

The 6-foot-3 junior from Canada averaged 9.4 points last season but was going to be relied upon more heavily this year with the departure of seniors Lawrence Westbrook and Damian Johnson.

It's a tough blow for the Golden Gophers, who face a challenging schedule at the start of the season. They open at home on Friday night against NCAA tournament team Wofford and face Siena on Monday before leaving on Tuesday for Puerto Rico.

"He's a guy that can get his shot, can knock down the open jump shot and plays with a passion," Smith said. "A kid that's competitive and just is a hard-nosed, tough kid."

The Gophers know a thing or two about dealing with these things. Point guard Al Nolen missed the second half of last season because of academic issues and recruits Royce White and Trevor Mbakwe did not play all season because of off-the-court problems.

White eventually left school. Mbakwe returned this year and is expected to be a big contributor.

"Last year I think a bunch of guys got distracted with the off-the-court issues," senior guard Blake Hoffarber said. "We have guys that are used to dealing with it now."

Smith said the program will stand behind Joseph as he works through his "mistakes." He said he was disappointed in one of his veterans putting himself in this position, but he expects and hopes that Joseph will bounce back.

"Devoe knows he's let the team down," Smith said. "He feels like he's let himself down, he's let me down. But it doesn't take long to recover. Once you realize that when you look at the mirror, you say, 'You know what, I better go hug him because I'm looking for a hug myself.' I've made mistakes after mistakes [too]."