Gopher basketball is in the midst of a truly disastrous season. Due to injuries that have affected three regular rotation guys and the suspension of the Big Ten’s most impactful defensive player, the Gophers have been struggling. Depth was a concern coming into the season to some degree and it has become a major issue.
Depth and giving yourself an opportunity to still be successful, even when you face injuries, has been a challenge for this program in recent years.
Last year the Gophers were quite successful and managed to stay healthy basically the entire season until Akeem Springs was injured in the Big Ten Tournament. A team that was not particularly deep was nearly able to make it through the season unscathed.
Depth has become a major problem this year.
The culprit? Recruiting. Particularly the first two full recruiting classes of Richard Pitino. In those 2014 and 2015 classes the Gophers gave out 10 scholarships. Those 10 scholarship athletes are your current junior and senior classes. The problem? Of those 10 scholarships, only 3 turned out to be regular and meaningful contributors.
2014 Recruiting Class - 5 scholarships where you really netted 1 player who is a meaningful contributor and worthy of a scholarship. Carlos Morris was a contributor in his 2 years. (edit: HERE was our recap of the early signings)
- Nate Mason - All Big Ten caliber PG
- Bakary Konate - forced to be contributing (commit profile)
- Gaston Diedhiou - forced to be contributing (commit profile)
- Carlos Morris - JUCO who played for 2 years
- Josh Martin - transferred, currently 3rd leading scorer for Cal Poly
2015 Recruiting Class - 5 more scholarships with 2 players who are even wearing a uniform.
- Jordan Murphy - All Big Ten Caliber PF
- Dupree McBrayer - starting caliber or at the very least a valuable player off the bench
- Kevin Dorsey - made a sex video, no longer on the team
- Jarvis Johnson - unable to play due to heart condition
- Ahmed Gilbert - transferred due to lack of for playing opportunity (i.e. he wasn’t good enough)
Landing 3 or 4 players who end up contributing from back to back classes isn’t always such a bad thing. The problem here is that these classes were classes where we had a lot of scholarships to dole out and the hit rate is really sub-optimal.
Now I’m not here to harp on prior recruiting. The misses on Diedhiou, Konate, Martin and Gilbert are significant reasons why we are where we are today. Johnson you couldn’t really control and Dorsey is a weird situation, you can’t always predict these sort of things. The point here is just stressing how important recruiting is.
Minnesota is in another cycle of back to back recruiting classes that are going to be larger than usual. The 2018 class looks to be in very good shape with 3 exciting recruits coming into the program next fall. There is probably 1 more scholarship that can be used, hopefully it will be used on a graduate transfer to bring some experience at a position of need ASAP.
But the real key here is the 2019 class. Can the Gophers bring in back to back classes with multiple contributors? That is the key to developing a program that has some depth, has some margin for error when bad things happen and a program that can begin to consistently win.
There are 8 scholarships to be handed out between the 2018 and 2019 classes, how many of them will turn out to be players Pitino and staff can count on for 3 or 4 seasons? Back to back solid classes will begin to give him some consistent talent and a chance to avoid disaster seasons like we have seen in 2 of the last 3 years.
I feel pretty good about the caliber of players coming in as part of the 2018 class. The 2019 class is a big one.