Gabe Kalscheur and Jarvis Omersa didn’t just want to blend in with their Gophers teammates when practice started in June. They wanted to make an impression. And they have in their own way in the last month.
Even on a team with several experienced players returning at their positions, Kalscheur and Omersa are making a strong case to get playing time as freshmen.
“They’re versatile and can bring different things to the table,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said.
Kalscheur, a 6-foot-4, 185-pound shooting guard from DeLaSalle, was arguably the best shooter to come out of Minnesota’s high school ranks since former Hopkins star Blake Hoffarber a decade ago.
Surprisingly, Kalscheur’s three-point shooting isn’t necessarily what might get him extended minutes on the court this season. He’s actually a better defender than he got credit for in high school. But that’s not it, either. It’s his work ethic and his attention to detail that is definitely being noticed, Pitino said.
“What I’m excited about Gabe is I think he’s going to be a really good player,” Pitino said. “The reason why Gabe is going to be a good player is every day before practice he’s the first one on the court 30 minutes before practice. And he’s not jacking up half court shots or lying on the ground. He comes in there and does form shooting, he works on his game. He cares about all the little things. And a lot of young people don’t care about the little things – and that’s why they struggle with playing time. The details are important to Gabe and that’s what is going to force me to play him.”
The Gophers freshman post receiving the most attention has been Cretin-Derham Hall’s Daniel Oturu, because he’s the top recruit in the U’s 2018 class. But with Oturu recovering from shoulder surgery, Omersa has turned heads in practice this summer.
It didn’t take long for the 6-7, 225-pound Orono product to show why he could be the most athletic newcomer in the Big Ten next season. He measured a 44.5-inch max vertical jump at the U’s practice facility last month. Pitino compared Omersa’s “game-changing” athleticism to Blake Griffin.
Dunking won’t get him playing time, though. His motor and toughness could probably help the Gophers in the frontcourt this year.
“Jarvis has been really good,” Pitino said. “He’s great for (All-Big Ten senior forward) Jordan Murphy, because physically he will not back down. He doesn’t really get tired. He’s in great shape. He’s clearly a terrific athlete.”