Daniel Oturu and Jarvis Thomas were one of the most athletic frontcourts in all of AAU basketball this summer for Howard Pulley.
And now that they’re both future Gophers, fans can imagine how exciting it will be to see them wreak havoc in the paint at the Barn in the coming years.
Oturu, a 6-foot-10 senior center, is a top-40 recruit nationally in 2018. The Cretin-Derham Hall product committed to Richard Pitino earlier this year, marking one of the most impressive recruiting triumphs for the U locally, considering Oturu had a Kansas scholarship offer.
Photo courtesy: MN Hoopers Stand Up
The 6-8, 220-pound Thomas, a top-150 senior prospect, announced his decision to play for Minnesota on Tuesday. The Orono standout was one of the biggest surprise in the Nike EYBL this year – and arguably the most explosive leaper in the country.
“Our frontcourt will be a really athletic frontcourt,” Oturu said about when he and Thomas play for Minnesota together. “He’s just an athletic big that brings a lot of energy. He’s just an outstanding athlete. It’s great to have him in the frontcourt with me. We complement each other’s game very well. He’s fun to play with.”
Oturu’s potential might be the highest for a Gophers center out of high school since Joel Przybilla came to the U in 1998.
“I think Daniel Oturu is going to be a really good player,” said Evan Daniels, Scout.com’s director of basketball recruiting. “I like him as a prospect. I think he has a lot of upside. I think his best basketball days are ahead of him. He’s mobile. He’s long. He’s athletic. He goes to the glass and rebounds. He contests shots. That was a pretty significant pickup for Richard Pitino to get a guy like him early.”
Oturu and Thomas could be still growing, even after adding a couple inches in the past year. There’s no doubt they will also both get much bigger and stronger before college. Thomas is still just 16.
Thomas’ off-the-chart athleticism stands out more than anything. But playing consistently with a high motor is what allowed him to make an even greater impact this summer, Rivals.com’s Eric Bossi said.
“He’s always been athletic,” Bossi said. “He always had a motor. But it was an inconsistent one. Hot and cold. Never knew what you were going to get. But now I think he’s become more reliable. And you know the effort is more often than not going to be there. He’s finding different ways to be productive on top of just playing hard.”
Oturu said he follows Gophers center and Big Ten defensive player of the year Reggie Lynch’s game very closely. He hopes to even surpass Lynch’s school block records one day. If Oturu projects to be a lot like Lynch, Thomas’ game resembles forward Jordan Murphy, who earned All-Big Ten honors last season.
“You got a guy who can hopefully get in a year of experience and then help replace Jordan Murphy,” Bossi said of Thomas. “He doesn’t have quite the skill Jordan Murphy had as a scorer in high school. He’s got the same size. He’s a volume rebounder like Jordan Murphy, and he’s just such a freakish athlete with such a great motor. He projects to be a good player at the next level.”
When Oturu and Thomas join the Gophers in 2018-19, Pitino will have lost Lynch and fellow senior big men Bakary Konate and Gaston Diedhiou. But Minnesota should return Murphy, Davonte Fitzgerald and Eric Curry in the frontcourt. Louisville 7-foot transfer Matz Stockman would also be eligible after sitting out this season.
There's a possibility that Pitino could add another big man in the 2018 class as a potential redshirt candidate as a freshman the following year. The Gophers will look at 6-11 Hopkins big man Joe Hedstrom for the second straight week in the local Adidas tournament over the weekend.
But whatever their role is as freshmen, it will definitely be a dream come true for Thomas and Oturu to be playing together for the home state program in college.
“When he first got the Gopher offer in June, I just got a different type of energy,” Oturu said. “I felt like he was going to come. I felt like that offer meant a lot to him. I knew something special could happen.”