The change for Theo John, he believes, started with an attitude.
This summer, the Champlin Park power forward has gotten serious, and so has his play for Howard Pulley on this summer’s AAU circuit.
Now, that mindset is also being reflected in coaches who are pursuing the 2017 recruit.
John picked up two new offers this week, from Texas Tech and Iowa, according to Rivals' Ryan James, to add to the three he’d already accumulated from Marquette, Minnesota and Nebraska.
“The EYBL circuit, it puts you out there,” John said last month at an Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) session in Maple Gorve. “It puts your name out on the map and you’ve got to work to make it a positive name. Playing for this team has really benefitted me.”
John, who has been lauded for his defensive effort and rim-protecting ability – he lands ninth among EYBL blocks leaders with 29 overall and 11th with 1.8 a game – is making the most of the spotlight.
He’s working harder, dreaming bigger.
“Last year I was a little lazy and this year I’m a lot more motivated,” he said. “I have that work ethic and on the court, I’m giving 110 percent because I know if not a sub is coming pretty fast. I just decided if I’m going to try to make it, I’ve got to give 100 percent. Because to come up short but know you gave it your all, you can’t really be mad about that.”
Playing at the collegiate level is something he’s thought about since age 5, John said. Although he didn’t watch much college hoops growing up in Champlin Park, John envisioned the crowds while shooting at the basket on his driveway. When Minnesota coach Richard Pitino called this March, making the Gophers the first to offer John, his eyes grew wide.
“I was in shock,” he said. “For my home town to be my first offer was pretty cool. I could see myself playing in front of my home town. I like playing here, you can see all the support and everything. But time will tell where I end up.”
Besides the proximity, the 6-9 John cited Pitino’s uptempo style and the promise of a bold new practice facility as qualities that intrigue him at Minnesota.
For now, though, John has nothing but time. Coaches were only allowed to start making unlimited calls and texts to the rising junior on June 15, and John has no timeline for planning official or unofficial visits. He has wandered around Dinkytown a few times, catching four basketball games – albeit receiving no chants from the student section yet. His mom is mostly handling his recruitment, keeping track of each school that reaches out and specifics of those programs in a notebook.
This summer, John is working on getting “bigger, faster, stronger,” and continuing to show coaches on the AAU circuit a new effort that stems from a new perspective.
“People told me it was possible and I guess I finally started believing it,” he said. “You can’t let that get to your head in the wrong way. You’ve just got to know that people are hoping that you make it so you can’t really let them down.”