The 2015 Gopher Basketball Recruiting class grew to 3 last night and the first frontcourt player of the class has been secured. Jonathan Nwankwo is a 6-9 post player on an official visit this weekend and even though the big man had other offers and visits scheduled he gave his verbal pledge to Richard Pitino and staff.
What do we know about this latest commit?
Nwankwo is a Nigerian born big man from New York. He will be finishing his prep career at Victory Rock Prep down in Florida. It appears as though he is a big and strong kid who will come to the Gophers ready to be an excellent rebounder and defender. The offensive skill set is developing but finishing strong around the rim is not a problem. I clearly do not know a ton about him, but here are a few reports of the type of player Nwankwo appears to be.
Nwankwo is a big body post that competes and plays with energy and urgency. He runs the floor pretty well and does a good job of catching and finishing when he receives drop off passes created by dribble penetration. Excellent rebounder on both ends of the floor. Scores over his left shoulder in the post. He also a pretty good on ball shot blocker.
Nwankwo rebounding and defense is ahead of his offense at this time. He has great size and is a immediate factor on the defensive end of the floor and possess terrific upside and is a major college low post prospect.
NYCHoops.net had a couple of articles on the NYC area kid and was quite complimentary of his game and skill set.
Grabbing rebounds, blocking shots or intimidating opponents who dared drive down the lane and scoring at the rim was a reoccurring trademark of Nwankwo who recently transferred from Monsignor Scanlon HS to Victory Rock Prep. The aggressive play and seemingly endless motor has caught the eye of quite a few college coaches.
And this was from his August experience at the Las Vegas Fab 48 tournament.
Nwankwo is a fighter in the paint. A relentless competitor on the boards. While he's still rough around the edges and needs work on his offense, the power forward is clearly teachable. Only working off of instinct, Nwankwo is able to imprint a game.
You get the impression that Nwankwo will immediately bring some strength and toughness to the Gopher frontcourt. I love a guy who is big, strong and teachable. I love a guy who is described as relentless on the boards, the obvious comparison seems to be that Nwankwo has a similar skill set to Trevor Mbawke. Not every recruit needs to be a high-scoring asset, having a guy who will be intimidating in the paint and snatch up rebounds. I am looking forward to him giving a legit Big Ten bodied big man.
The next logical question is, what does this mean for the rest of the 2015 recruiting class? As it stands the Gophers currently have one available scholarship and there are two pretty significant local recruits we are still pursuing. There appear to be two potential scenarios. Either the last scholarship will go to whoever decides first between Jarvis Johnson and Alex Illikainen. Or the Gophers will accept both verbal commitments and have to figure out what to do at a later date knowing that transfers happen or something along those lines will make a 5th scholarship available for this class. My gut tells me that they would accept both Johnson and Illikainen then figure out the numbers later. You don't turn away top 150 guys who are in your backyard, allowing them to play for another Big Ten school for the next four years.
Want to get to know Nwankwo a little more? Here is a little interview with him.
And here are some of his 2014 highlights (it is a lot of dunks)!