The open period for college basketball recruiting as is the spring signing window. Keeping up with all of the action has been a bit daunting when you have high school seniors who are going to be late signers, potential JUCO signers and transfers being thrown into the mix. In additionnow is the time when you really start pursuing current juniors as they head into their important summer evaluation to hopefully sign next fall.
The Spring Signing Period began on April 15 and runs through May 20th. During this time and through the summer there are various periods of dead time, evaluation time and quiet time (see calendar here). For the next month the Gopher staff will be hosting visitors for the current class, evaluating and contacting kids for next year's class and basically working like dogs to get this roster shaped the way they'd like to see it with talented kids coming in to help ASAP. Basketball may be over for fans but this is an extremely busy time for the coaching staff.
Currently the staff has 1 scholarship to potentially be used right now on kids who could play next fall or transfers. There are currently five incoming freshmen already have signed and one transfer who will have two years to play starting in 2016. It seems more likely that the remaining scholarship will either be used on a JUCO player or banked to be used with next year's class. This is our current scholarship allotment as it will stand next fall (pending plenty of changes I am sure). You may notice that of the 12 scholarship players currently, 9 of them are sophomore or juniors.
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After a couple of busy weeks the staff has one available scholarship to be used with this class. There are basically three names still being pursued.
Malik Ellison - son of Pervis Ellison, a 3-star SG/SF from Pennsylvania and one of the top targets of the spring. Ellison visited Minnesota during the season and came away impressed. A key factor (possibly a deciding factor?) is that Dan McHale was the primary recruiter for Ellison and with McHale taking the Eastern Kentucky job, maybe Minnesota isn't sitting as well as they once were. St. John's, South Carolina, Rutgers and Wake are the schools primarily after Ellison at this point and it could be any of them who wins out.
The Gophers need help at wing and Ellison would be the kind of player who would have an opportunity to earn playing time right away. Would be a good addition to the freshman class. Ellison had previously taken an official visit during the season.
After Ellison the remaining two names are JUCO players at a position where we need some experience. With just one junior on the roster, bringing a JUCO in would help to balance the classes a little bit. And we also need some help in the frontcourt next year unless the plan is to fully rely on the Konate and Diedhiou...that scares me.
Chris Boucher - JUCO - Boucher is a 1st team JUCO All-American and won some national player of the year awards after averaging 22.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.7 blocks per game. He is a skilled 6-10 and would be in line for immediate playing time at Minnesota. Boucher would be exactly what we need next year, a big man who has some skill and experience. These quotes from his JUCO coach via GopherIllustrated.com who is covering the Boucher recruitment like a blanket.
"His length is just big time. Chris has long arms, he'll go up and get rebounds that you think no one else can get, or there will be a board you expect somebody else to get and Chris gets it. On the defensive end he's so good at, I don't think I've seen anybody better with the timing on blocked shots.
"People can head fake and head fake and head fake him but Chris will not go for it and then still go up and block the shot. Even if he doesn't block the shot, Chris alters shots. He could come away from a game with five blocked shots but he likely altered ten when guys where driving into the paint."
JUCO players can sometimes make a big impact on your team (Bobby Jackson, Vincent Grier) and sometimes the transition to playing for a major conference team doesn't work out so well (Devron Bostick). But Boucher meets a need, has some talent and would be a welcome addition. TCU has already received a visit, Texas Tech and Tubby Smith got a visit last weekend and the Gophers are trying to get one scheduled. Iowa State (transfer U?) is also picking up interest.
Cullen Russo is a 6-9 power forward who is originally from Minnesota. Ben Johnson and the Gopher staff have been keeping an eye on Russo for some time now and he just finished an official visit to Minnesota. In New Mexico he averaged just under 12 points and 7 rebounds per game. Getting a big man in who can play right away and contribute is something next year's team could really use. Russo is also getting significant interest from Wichita State.
Would be just fine seeing the Gophers land one of these JUCO big men with Boucher being preferred.
I will throw three more names out there as potential transfers...I do not think these names are likely to sign with the Gophers but I'll put them out there as they have been tied to Gopher interest in the last couple weeks.
Kyle Washington is a former local kid who went the prep school route and then played his freshman season at NC State. Washington was a top 100 caliber player out of high school and had an up and down year at NC State averaging about 7 points and 4 rebounds as a freshman in about 18 minutes per game. He would have to sit a year but would be a nice addition to the 2016-17 Gophers.
According to this ESPN Insider list of the top transfers ($), Josh Cunningham is considering Minnesota as a destination after leaving Bradley. Cunningham is a 6-7 forward coming off a nice freshman season who would add some quality rebounding and defense.
Jordan Caroline is transferring out of Southern Illinois after his freshman season. Another 6-7 forward who averaged 9.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Minnesota has shown interest but Caroline is visiting Cincy this weekend and wants to schedule a visit to Nevada as well. A visit to Minnesota is scheduled for May 8th.
That is a decent list of potential signees for this current class. If I'm giving my opinion here I say we land one of the high school prospects and hopefully one (maybe both) of the JUCO big men. At this point I am most interested in Boucher and getting his skill set into The Barn. Russo would be a welcome addition as well to fill an area of need.
Two seniors graduating which means we will have 2 scholarships plus anything that may carry over from the three we currently have. We already have one commitment so scholarships are currently kind of light for this class. Plenty of time for "things to happen" (and they always do) but if the staff uses up the remaining available 2015 scholarships there will only be one left for 2016. Here is a brief list of some targets known to be pursued by the Gopher staff.
COMMITTED - Michael Hurt - a shooting forward from Rochester and a Rivals ranked top 150 recruit. A skilled player who isn't bursting with athleticism but he isn't exactly slow either. I hate to make a lazy comparison but I really do think he is similar to Blake Hoffarber. More athletic than he appears, a very nice shooting touch from behind the arc and a kid who won't make a lot of mistakes by trying to do too much.
Amir Coffey, was a top 50 recruit with high majors calling. Then he tore his ACL in December. Does he still have high majors calling? Yes, but I'm sure they are a bit more cautious now. For the Gophers this kid is their number one priority. A legacy recruit with four-star talent and would add some serious punch to this roster. Landing the best player in the state who has a very high ceiling is imperative. Are we going to land him? Seems closer to a coin-flipo than a sure thing.
Quentin Goodin - a Kentucky point guard from the hometown of Clem Haskins (included only because it is mildly interesting, not because it has any significance on the recruitment). A four-star with impressive offers from Louisville, Florida, Michigan, Tennessee and others. The Gopher staff has really been after Goodin and he seems to be a priority in this class.
Rawle Alkins - A four-star prospect and top 50 ranked high school player. Pitino and staff reached out to Alkins as a freshman, Pitino's first year, and are rekindling their pursuit of Alkins. He is a shooting guard out of New York with some significant offers.
Xavier Sneed - a top 150 small forward out of Missouri.
Reid Nikko - 6-9 power fowward out of Maple Grove. Nikko does not have an offer from the Gophers but is a kid to keep an eye on.
Shamorie Ponds - Brooklyn Point Guard with four stars. Ponds has a scorers mentality and can shoot the ball well.
Mamadou Diarra - a raw big man that is staying under the radar for now.
2017 Locals to Be Aware Of
Gary Trent Jr - has a Gopher offer, plays for Apple Valley
Theo John - Champlin power forward who also has a Gopher offer