Minnesota Basketball Recruiting Update...Coach Pitino Still Looking For First 2014 Commitment

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

This weekend is a big recruiting weekend for Gopher basketball.  It wasn't very long ago that there was a lengthy list of highly ranked and sought after recruits who were considering committing to Coach Richard Pitino and the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.  That list is shrinking.  Just a month ago I had a list of 13 names who had at least a relatively decent chance of picking Minnesota.  The goal is to make a big splash in recruiting and with each passing weekend and commitment elsewhere, that opportunity slipping.  As of today 7 of those 13 have committed elsewhere.

  • SG - JP Maruca - Lakeville kid chose Xavier
  • SG - Isaiah Whitehead - in a bizarre twist chose Seton Hall
  • PG - Josh Perkins - chose Gonzaga as expected
  • PG - Quentin Snider - Illinois to be relatively close to home
  • PG - Alex Robinson - Texas A&M
  • SG - Wade Baldin - Vandy
  • PF - Paul White - Georgetown

So that leaves six names from my original list of names that had any realistic potential of landing and this is where the definition of "realistic" can be rather subjective.  Is Tyus Jones realistic?  Probably not but he is worth listing.

Point guard recruiting nationally has been rather interesting.  There are several high-major schools in need of a point in this recruiting class with limited number of quality options out there.  Michigan State and UConn are currently two schools being left scrambling for a point which is going to start affecting the Gophers, who also need one.  When Tyler Ulis chose Kentucky over MSU and Iowa a week ago, that left the Spartans scrambling to get visits lined up with guys like Tum Tum (more info below).  And now Iowa, who thought they had a shot with Ulis is working the phones to get Riley LaChance on to their campus (more on him below too).  Everyone still is working hard on Tyus Jones, but most of the world is convince he'll be a Blue Devil.  There are quite a few commitments by kids not at all considering Minnesota that are going to have an impact on Pitino's recruiting battles.

Before we get into the full list of names being pursued, it is important to talk about those who have visited or will be visiting this weekend.

Target_smallPG - Lourawls "Tum Tum" Nairn - To date he has been the only official visitor.  A 4-star point guard playing his ball at Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas and has supposedly narrowed down his final three to be Oklahoma, Minnesota and Indiana.  His first visit was to Minnesota on 8/29.  He has since taken in Oklahoma, will be visiting Indiana this weekend and then will make his decision.

The Gophers have reportedly informed Tum Tum that he is their #1 point guard target and he would instantly be the best recruited point guard to commit to the Gophers in a very long time.  What I love about Nairn besides that fact that he is lightening quick is the fact that he is a very talented point who will be with the program for probably all four years.  He has been at the top of the wish-list for the Gophers and Sooners, but will the Hoosiers be able to swoop in and steal him after they lost a few backcourt recruits?

There have been a number of PG and SG commitments lately which have left a few schools scrambling.  Michigan State has missed out on their top of the list guys and have now been showing more interest in Nairn too.  Even if he gives a verbal to the Gophers they'll be holding their breath till signing day.

Chances? - slightly less than 50/50.  I fear if Indiana puts some real heat on, he'll end up a Hoosier.  Michigan State is getting desperate for a point so maybe he takes a closer look there as well.  I'd be thrilled to land Nairn, but I'm losing hope.

VISITING THIS WEEKEND

Target_smallPG - Riley LaChance - Wisconsin native who has had a very good summer to boost his recruiting profile.  LaChance was scheduled to visit Baylor this weekend but canceled it to make the trip to Minnesota.  That can only be considered a good sign, but the fact remains that the Gophers have only recently offered and are a bit late to the game with LaChance.  It sounds like the relationship is good and moving fast, could he be the first 2014 commitment?

LaChance is a 3-star PG according to Rivals and ESPN gives him a 4-star rating.  This is what ESPN's eval had to say about him...

LaChance is a tough and competitive point guard that can shoot the ball with range. He is a knockdown 3 point shooter off the catch and has a pretty good pull up and can also straight line drive. LaChance passes on time and on target and has a great feel for the game. He does a good job running the team and makes good decisions as well.

LaChance is a point guard that can makes shots, pass and simply knows how to play. He competes on every possession and is a point guard that has shown that he can be trusted in the heat of the battle.

His father is also his coach.  He has visited Michigan State (who has not offered yet) and Vanderbilt.  Iowa is making a push to get him on campus and there is no expected timetable for his commitment.  LaChance may  not have the lightning quickness of Tum Tum, but I'd take a good passer and shooter in this system as well.

Chances? - 35%.  I think he will be a good fit and this is relatively close to home, this weekend will be a big factor I think.

Target_smallPF - Josh Martin - Also visiting this weekend is an athletic power forward out of Washington state.  Martin has narrowed down his final three to be Florida State (where he visited last weekend), Minnesota and Pittsburgh (where he's visiting next weekend).   Another kid receiving 3 stars from Rivals and 4 from ESPN; assuming we land him I will be a big fan of the ESPN system.

He is an athletic kid who would run the floor very well in Pitino's system.  Not a polished skill player but an athlete with a high ceiling.  This is a position of need in this recruiting class and unless they think they are going to land Reid Travis, Martin becomes a high priority.  It sounds like he is going to take his visit to Pitt next weekend and will then make his decision.

Chances? - 33%.  It is a three-way race and nothing I've read indicates one horse is stronger than any other.

WHAT NEXT?

After those three, there really are no new tidbits of info on the rest of those we are pursuing.  Reid Travis is getting more Duke love, Tyus is considering an official here but nobody is taking it seriously and Rashad Vaughn is now in Nevada but people still think we have a good shot with him.  So for now we are essentially down to the three local kids and the three mentioned above that we are actively pursuing.  Certainly there are other names that the staff is pursuing, if we miss out on these 6 that doesn't mean we are done.

Other names we may hear more about in the coming weeks...

  • PF - Josh Cunningham - visiting Creighton this weekend
  • SF - Marial Shayok - visited Virginia and has one lined up for Marquette

The three visitors should be making a decision in the next week or two which will then refocus where the staff will spend their time.  The next month is going to be pretty important, getting a few commitments would allow the staff to focus all of their time/energy on Rashad Vaughn in the spring and another talented local crew in the class of 2015.

UPDATE:

Pam Borton is also getting an official visit this weekend from a 4-star guard from Minnesota.  Carlie Wagner has already committed to the Gophers but is taking her official this weekend.  Wagner is ranked 59th in the country according to ESPN and her NRHEG Panthers are defending state champions.  (she happens to be from my hometown so you may get more Gopher Women's Hoops updates next year!)

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