While we covered the commitment before there was a press conference, today it became official. Jarvis Johnson announced his intention to play for the University of Minnesota next fall. Minnesota's recruiting class as of today is considered the 25th best class in the country by 24/7 Sports. Johnson's commitment means that the Gophers have no more scholarships available for 2015.
GopherNation already covered in great detail the reason to be excited about Johnson's commitment from a basketball perspective. He is a fantastic prospect that fits perfectly into Pitino's system. As he noted in his press conference today, he played off the ball on Howard Pulley's AAU when Tyus Jones ran the point. By all accounts, he is a hard worker who works to make his teammates better. More than likely, Johnson will need to improve his shooting for the next level, but that's true for just about any guard prospect.
Should Minnesotans care that Jarvis Johnson is one of our own? Not really. Johnson is a fantastic basketball player who should do great things at the next level. He also freely admitted to having a dream about having his number called at Williams Arena. (*Note, I also had this dream. I was much younger and much worse at basketball). Johnson's immediate follow up of "I'm gonna be real with y'all" is my favorite sound bite of the Pitino era.
Then again, we care about lineage intensely in the sport that Minnesota historically dominates. Pride on Ice has meaning not only because of #arrogance, it is actually an outlier to see a player not from Minnesota in Maroon and Gold. Closing the borders has been a priority in other sports, it is unsurprising that there should be a desire for basketball as well.
It's also a great time to attempt to close the border. Unlike football, a basketball team's turnover rate can mean that a team can go from terrible to good in as little as three years. According to StatSheet, Minnesota has had 18 Top 100 recruits since 1998. There will likely be at least 2 to 5 more in the next three years. Currently, Pitino is said to have good relationships with all of them.
The Gophers are already a good basketball team, with the potential to be a very good team if every recruit pans out. They have a remodeled gym to practice in, with a new practice facility arriving in the near future. Minnesota's campus is surrounded by Fortune 500 companies and basketball games are attended by fans that have no other D1 program in the state to potentially split their allegiance. In short, there is a lot for Pitino to sell along with a fun style of play and winning potential.
All of this needs to be realized on the court. That will require coaching and developing recruits. Still, it's always easier to build a good team when you start from a strong foundation. Pitino's first full cycle of recruiting certainly looks like that foundation.