There has been a lot going on in the world of Gopher Sports over the last two or three weeks. Gopher Basketball won the NIT, Spring Football Game was last Saturday and you may have noticed a little bit of coverage of the Gopher Hockey team's run to the NCAA Title game.
Now that the three primary revenue sports have completed any sort of competition until football resumes practice in August, I think we should take a quick pulse of Gopher basketball recruiting.
In case you missed this last week, the Gophers have signed another player to their 2014 class (and they may not be finished). A 6-9 forward from Senegal who has been playing in Spain will be moving to Minnesota to further his basketball career. Gaston Diedhou is the 20 year old's name and very little is known about the young man.
So after the Diedhou signing this is what our scholarship situation looks like...
As you can see that leaves us with only 11 scholarship players for next year, but it doesn't sound like the staff is done yet. Internet rumors are heating up that the staff is in pursuit of an unknown JUCO big man and possibly has an in with Xavier forward, Justin Martin.
Justin Martin has announced that he is planning to transfer from Xavier. The current junior is working to finish school this year and graduate which would allow him to transfer to another school and play right away. Martin was recruited by Richard Pitino out of high school to play for Louisville and verbally committed before backing out of that verbal and eventually signing with Xavier.
As a junior Martin was the team's 2nd leading scorer (11.7) and 2nd leading rebounder (5.2), Martin shot over 37% from three and would be a great 1-year addition after the loss of Austin Hollins.
Interest exists between the Gophers and Martin. But it's not a done deal. Minnesota's coaches aren't even allowed to contact him directly because he has not been officially released from Xavier. That won't happen until he gets his undergraduate degree.
This would be a very nice get but Martin, a former 4-star and top 100 recruit, will be pursued by a number of teams and the opportunity to play for a Final Four contending team might be be difficult to pass up.
We'll keep an eye on this and see what happens.
Visiting this weekend is another small forward, Ryan Johnson from Thomasville, North Carolina. Johnson is a veyr lightly recruited forward who visited James Madison last weekend and will be in Minnesota this coming weekend. He does not currently have a Gopher offer but may be a very late-bloomer who ends up being a great find for the Gopher staff.
Johnson grew an inch or two over the past year and with that came another level of play and college interest. He's a long and agile wing that gets after it on the defensive end and scores in a variety of ways on the offensive end highlighted mostly by his high releasing outside touch. He'll need to add strength to his frame once on a college campus but Johnson is a high IQ mature talent that will be a worker on campus from day one.
I would be a little surprised to see us take Johnson but if he impresses this weekend, he very well may be a fall-back option who is groomed to become a solid player.
Djuan Piper is still in the mix to be added as a freshman small forward, but the Seattle native appears to be having trouble getting academically qualified. I think the Gophers would take Piper in a heartbeat, but he hasn't made his decision and he may not be able to play D1 next year.
Incoming PF-Josh Martin was interviewed by Marcus Fuller and had this to say about Piper.
"He would definitely add athleticism," Martin said. "He's an athletic freak. He also has length. He's like (Gophers senior guard) Austin Hollins kind of. He's long and is great defensively. He's a scrapper. He would bring a lot of toughness I think."
It's been widely known that Piper has work to do academically, which could be a reason he hasn't committed yet. His favorites are reportedly Minnesota and Washington. The 6-foot-6, 180-pound wing is ranked as high as a four-star recruit by ESPN.com.
Piper would also be a very nice addition, another unique situation to keep an eye on.
Those three names are all worth watching and then of course Pitino and staff could get a commitment from someone completely off the radar. Rumors are persisting that we are working on a JUCO big man, but any names are pure speculation at this point. With the way our scholarship situation is, landing a JUCO who would come in as a sophomore or junior would balance things out a bit. This is shaping up to be a very big class and we'll have at least four scholarships available to use in the 2015 class.
This 2014 class is taking a long time to finalize and hopefully we'll start zeroing in on 2015 targets very soon. It is undeniable that next year's roster is going to look very different. But we'll preview the 2014-15 roster another day.