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Minnesota Basketball Recruiting: Applying Context to Gopher Hoops Missing All of the Local Recruits

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Details are important when considering how Richard Pitino did recruiting MN kids for the 2017 class.

This has been a strange recruiting cycle for the Gopher basketball program.  After yesterday's announcement by Theo John that he'll be attending Marquette and McKinley Wright will be taking his skills to Dayton, the Gophers have officially gone 0-5 with local kids who have high-major talent.  It can be very easy to take that 0-5 stat and make some pretty broad assumptions.  On the other hand you do have to take the entire situation if you have any intention of having a fair conversation about this.  But the ultimate result is that Pitino and staff absolutely have to be right with the guys they are bringing with the precious few scholarships they have in this recruiting cycle.

But I think we should take a look at the 2017 recruiting with some context.

The Facts

  • The Gophers technically have just 2 scholarships available for this 2017 recruiting class.  As we all know, you can oversign because it is typical to lose a scholarship player in the offseason.  But 2 is the number for now.
  • The state of Minnesota has 5 kids who are getting scholarship offers to play for a high-major program, all are Big Ten caliber players who would help the Gopher program.
  • I'm not going to count Gary Trent Jr as he has lived here only briefly, has transferred out of the state and was never really going to even consider the Gophers.  If you want to include him? Then use 0-6, which is still 0%.
  • The Gophers just finished up an historically bad season.  Two Big Ten wins, suspensions, a kid transferring and an incredibly frustrated fan base has made for a pretty negative environment around the Gopher program.
  • The Gophers have signed one guy to the 2017 class and he's pretty dang good.  A 4-star point guard from NYC who is a top 100 player in the country.  That is truly an important factor in this.

The Minnesota Kids

This is really a very strong and deep class of local recruits in your backyard.  There are 5 kids who are going to be playing for really good programs around the country.  But what makes this interesting is that the program has just the 2 scholarships available for the class of 2017.  So the staff has to be judicious with their 2 scholarships and who they target.  The staff was unable to sign any of them, lets take a look at what happened.

Guys We Didn't Really Target - till it was far too late

These are a couple kids who chose to go to Wisconsin while the Pitino staff was looking elsewhere.  You can call them a miss, but this miss is different.  We missed because they may be very good players who wind up beating us, but this staff decided not to prioritize these two.  Maybe a distinction without a difference, but these guys are going to be playing in Madison in the coming years.

  • Nathan Reuvers - Lakeville power forward who the Gophers did not spend much time on as they clearly had prioritized Theo John and Jericho Sims.  Reuvers was targeted by Wisconsin and the chose to be a Badger.  The Gophers offered late in the game but it was far too late.  This one counts as a "miss" by the staff in my opinion.  Not a miss because Reuvers chose Wisconsin over Minnesota, but a miss because they really should have put more time and effort into him earlier.  Power forward is a big need in this class and Reuvers appears to have been their 3rd choice of the local recruits.  They missed on him early and missed on their top two later.
  • Brad Davison - point guard was the other major need in this class and Maple Grove's Davison is one they also did not prioritize.  It is pretty clear that the Gophers targeted Isaiah Washington and McKinley Wright ahead of Davison...so he chose Wisconsin.  Once again they offered very late, right before he committed to the Badgers.  I really fear this is one we are going to regret very much.  Not a miss because we really got the PG we wanted, but I think he's going to be very good down in Madison.  Davison and his family are Gopher fans and I believe season ticket holders.  He had a great summer and showed that he can play with the best in the country.  I do believe that if we had more scholarships in this class, we would have pursued him harder and he'd be a Gopher.  But ultimately he was not a point that the staff prioritized. 

The Priority Targets...the ones that really got away

Here are two names that we really went hard after but they didn't want us.  Of the 5 or 6 local kids, we really were 0-2 in my mind.  Both are highly recruited kids at a position we desperately need in this class.

  • Jericho Sims - A year ago Sims was an intriguing prospect who played for a small school, had incredible talent but nobody was sure how he's translate to the next level or improve.  Well, he had a great Spring and Summer, saw his recruiting blow up and ultimately accepted an offer from Texas. Sims was a guy we absolutely wanted and targeted at big man in this class.  This was a miss and one that got away.
  • Theo John - When Sims chose Texas, John was the last big man on the list and he was always a guy they wanted.  His decision was an important one for the program but he decided to go to Marquette instead.  This one is also a huge miss and an example of a guy they put a lot of time and effort into but he chose to go elsewhere.

We Chose Elsewhere...it's not you, it's me

  • McKinley Wright - as I understand it from the fantastic insiding at GopherIllustrated.com, Wright wanted to be a Gopher, we asked him to wait and then took the commitment of Washington instead.  So Wright chose Dayton after we chose Washington.  The staff got the guy they wanted, and they better be right.

Context Filter

Really we were 50%...when you apply context  The best way to view all of this is that we really hit 50% for the recruiting cycle when you look at it by position.

Point Guard - the staff got the guy they wanted.  He isn't local, but they wanted Washington ahead of the local guys.  Now they better be correct in their assessment, but they have the guy they wanted.  And with only 2 scholarships that means you have to be OK with letting Wright and Davison go elsewhere.  I do believe the staff would have landed both Wright and Davison if they had more scholarships or had prioritized either of them ahead of Washington.

Power Forward - we missed.  Period.  The staff went 0-3 and are now going to have to find a guy who can play and be a factor.   So who is the next target?  Hasahn French is a 6'7" PF out of Boston and he is visiting in 2 weeks.  More on him as his visit approaches but the assumption is that he is currently their top target.

The one thing I will say is that it is my opinion that the door isn't fully closed on Sims.  I would not at all be surprised to see him decide to want to remain close to home and family.  Maybe that occurs before next summer, maybe it doesn't occur until after he moves to Texas...but I would not at all be surprised to eventually see him in maroon and gold.

It is also fair to point out that last year the staff got all of the local targets they wanted.  Richard Coffey is one of the biggest recruits to choose the Gophers in a long time and they plucked Michael Hurt out of Rochester with a specific skill set that they need on this roster.  And 2018 recruiting is going to be a big one locally as well.

This class will be reviewed and criticized for the next several years.  But it will always be important to remember that we only had 2 scholarships.  The only fair way to judge the staff on this class is to view how well the two recruits they actually bring in perform.  If Washington is a stud, then it really matters now how good Wright or Davison become.  If the big man we bring in is the next Jordan Murphy, then who cares how successful Reuvers, John or Sims are.  They had two scholarships in this class and they better be right with the two they bring in.