The names haven't changed much since the last time we did a Gopher basketball recruiting update. But we have entered the July evaluation period, coaches are all over the country watching prospects and often making final decisions on scholarship offers before making strong pushes to get verbal commitments from kids.
I'll do this recruiting update Q&A style where I ask the questions and provide the answers :)
What is the July Evaluation Period?
I'm glad you asked, it is three weekends in July when coaches can evaluate players. Over these three weekends there are events hosted that bring most of the nation's best together to have them play against each other. Last week most of the attention was on the Nike EYBL Peach Jam. This weekend there are events going on throughout the country, including Chaska hosting the Summer Classic. As I mentioned in my intro, these three weekends is when staffs from every program in the country finalize their offers and prioritize their big boards.
How many scholarships will the Gophers have to offer?
Right now technically they will have 2 open scholarships for next year. Akeem Springs, the grad transfer from UW-Milwaukee and then another one that was open but given to senior, walk-on Darin Haugh. Those two seniors are the scholarships to be used up. Now, as it happens every year, there are transfers or injuries or dismissals from the team. Most expect that the Gophers will accept 3 commitments.
Who are the Gophers Targeting?
Well there are four names that are clearly the staff's primary targets. You've heard them all before and the staff is really going 100% in on these four. Three of the four are local kids, but it is really unknown if they staff would take 2 guards and one big or if they'd go with the 2 bigs and just one guard.
PF - Theo John - Champlin Park - big man who has been improving and is getting quite a bit of attention from other schools. Purdue, Oklahoma and Marquette seem to be the big players here along with a recent offers from Maryland and Cal. The Illini were in hot pursuit but just landed a 5-star big man so it would seem they are not going to be in the Theo John Sweepstakes any longer.
John has a really big frame, solid post skills and a nice touch. A really nice big man who would be an awesome get for Pitino. Ryan James of the new GopherIllustrated has compared him to former Gopher, John Thomas. I like that comparison a lot.
PG - McKinley Wright - Champlin Park - teammate of John's and in my opinion these two are the primary targets for the Gopher staff. Again, I'm not sure if the third offer would go to a guard or another big man but I think these two are the primary targets. Wright is a tough point who is very good at getting to the rim and is good on the defensive end. Iowa State and Dayton seem to be the biggest threats to him being a Gopher.
F - Jericho Sims - Cristo Rey - This is the more interesting name on the list. Sims is a super athletic kid with significant upside to his game. But he isn't quite there yet. Playing for such a small school, it has been hard for programs to really judge how his game would translate to the D1 level, but there is no doubt that he has greatly improved since a year ago and his ceiling is incredibly high. Currently has offers and is getting a lot of love from Texas and Xavier, along with a host of other high-major offers.
Great size, great athleticism and is already a good rebounder and shot blocker. Offensively he is raw but developing. This kids is going to rise up the recruiting rankings faster than anybody and would be a huge get for the Gophers. One could argue that he's the top target.
Sims and Wright have spent their summer playing for D1 Minnesota in the Adidas Gauntlet Series.
PG - Isaiah Washington - Bronx, NY - Washington is a 4-star point who really has some similarities to Wright in that he is a really tough point who can create but is still working on his outside shooting. A floor leader and one who can use his athletic ability on both ends of the floor. Minnesota has been courting Washington for a long time and they remain entrenched in his recruitment.
If I had to guess, the staff would take the three local names above before Washington.
Are There Any Other Names?
Of course there are. It would be a great recruiting class if the staff can land three of the names above. That seems like wishful thinking so there have to be some other names to be recruiting.
PG - Jamir Harris - Elizabeth, NJ - 4-star point guard who was actually on campus this summer for an unofficial visit. Boston College and Ivy League schools
PG - Wabissa Bede - Ashburnham, MA - recently offered by Minnesota and has a host of other offers. It is early and there isn't a lot of information on where Bebe is leaning or who is after him the hardest.
SF - Terrence Lewis - Milwaukee, WI - A 4-star and athletic wing whom the Gophers have extended an offer. They are watching him closely at events but with just a few scholarships and this not exactly being a position they really need, I would think he's a Plan B.
What About the Other Local Kids?
Well this local 2017 class is actually quite talented and deep. There are three other names whom the Gophers have offered and chose to go elsewhere (or will).
Nathan Reuvers (Lakeville) and Brad Davidson (Maple Grove) have both made the call for Wisconsin. Technically the Gophers offered both of these kids, but in reality both were really late offers. The staff for months have been all over the names listed above. John and Sims were prioritized over Reuvers while Wright and Washington were the staff's choices over Davidson. It is REALLY unfortunate that both chose the Badgers, leaving the door open for them to have great careers and we get to second-guess their recruitments for the next 4-5 years. The reality is that the staff had limited scholarships this year and made the decision to go with other names higher on their list.
From what I have read, I really like Davidson and wish there was a way to find a spot for him in this class. But it was too little, too late as the Badgers have been working on him for months. This is the one we will wish was in maroon and gold in a couple years. But as I mentioned, it's a numbers game and the staff went with a couple other names they thought would be better fits.
The other major name is Gary Trent Jr. He is a top 10 player who has really never shown much interest in the Gophers so the staff has not spent much time recruiting him. He is going to a blue-chip program and we wish him the best.
Can We Start Looking Ahead to 2018 or Even 2019?
Sure, why not?
Daniel Oturu - turning into a very good center who starts for the Howard Pulley team that was one of best in the EYBL circuit. Active and athletic. He has a Gopher offer and with several scholarships open for next year, he'll be a top priority.
Mathew Hurt - legit one of the best players in the country for the class of 2019. The soon-to-be sophomore and younger brother of current Gopher freshman Michael is a top-10 player nationally with offers from some pretty impressive schools. He's been playing on the D1 Minnesota team with primarily seniors, any maybe has been the best player on that team. What are the Gopher's chances? I think Michael having a great experience would be the #1 thing in Minnesota's favor at this point.
Race Thompson - 2018 forward who is the son of former Gopher great, Darrel Thompson. Again, worth noting that we have a lot of scholarships to use next year (possibly 5!) and Thompson at 6'8" heading into his junior year is one that will be prioritized as well.
Tre Jones - brothers to Tyus and playing for Apple Valley. He has a Gopher offer and will get the gold-plated treatment, he also may be one who is more likely to look elsewhere.
Any Other Questions?
I hope not, but put them in the comments if you do.
The really short version is that we are putting most of our eggs into 4 names, 3 of whom we would take as commitments and be extremely happy. After those 4, we'd have a lot of ground to make up with a few other names. Then next year we will likely have a large class with up to 5 open scholarships.