UPDATE: I spoke briefly with Newton, who said he "thinks" he will visit Minnesota, that he might not take all five visits and that he plans to make his decision before the season. He said he isn't sure when or where his first visit will be.
Ja'Quan Newton is down to six schools, and he has five official recruiting visits to take --- that means that one school will still have to be trimmed out of a visit, and of course the actually decision could be a ways away.
But regardless of whether the Gophers do in fact land the prized point guard, Newton's inclusion of Minnesota on his short list is another sign of the early respect that coach Richard Pitino and the rest of the new Gophers staff is receiving from high-value recruits and a credit to the quick work they've done since April. Newton, who has talked about mutually choosing a school with shooting guard Isaiah Whitehead, was identified as a top target for the Gophers early on.
The 6-2, 180-pound Newton, who is ranked 41st overall by Rivals and 67th by ESPN, tweeted his new list on Wednesday.
Decided 2 Cut My List 2 6 Schools! Miami,ucla,Syracuse,Texas a&m,Oregon,and Minnesota No Order— Ja'Quan Newton (@J_Newton20) July 31, 2013
Newton, a fearless attacker of the paint, was also being recruited by Georgetown, Nebraska, Wake Forest, Penn State, Virginia and Villanova, among others. Villanova, Newton's home-town school, had gotten a commitment from point guard Phil Booth a day earlier. Newton told me in an earlier interview that he plans to start his visits in the fall. Will the Gophers get to host one?
He told ESPN recruiting analyst Dave Telep today that he plans to visit Miami, Syracuse, UCLA and Oregon for sure. Whether he goes on another will be up to him -- but he made it clear that he has been impressed with Minnesota's effort.
"I was going by who contacted me the most and who I built relationships with," Newton told Telep. "Coach Pitino was at every game."
Remember in Pitino's official blog when he noted that coaches go back and forth about whether simply being seen at games during evaluating periods has any weight come decision time? Well, at least in this case, in the short term, that constancy did.