Richard Pitino and the Gophers were one of the first high majors to show serious interest in Texas center Sam Freeman when he earned a scholarship after dominating at their team camp last summer.
The 6-foot-10 senior at Northwest High said he was so excited Thursday to announce his decision to play for Minnesota that he posted a video on Twitter with a message saying he was "commenting to," instead of "committing to."
"I got really excited and wanted to hurry up and do it, because I told everybody it was going to be at 11:30," Freeman told the Star Tribune. "I uploaded it. It was taking forever. You could tell I was really excited to post it, because I autocorrected it. And it said 'commenting.' "
Freeman decided to leave his initial post up, because it got so many views (more than 38,000 views and counting Thursday night). He laughs now about having to write a correction underneath.
"I didn't expect as many people to look at it as they did," he said of the video. "I was kind of shocked. I didn't think I'd get all that attention. Everybody at school congratulated me and all that. That was fun."
Freeman, a three-star recruit by Rivals.com, was down to the Gophers and Virginia Tech, but Buzz Williams left the Hokies for Texas A&M on Wednesday. Freeman said he would be officially signing with Minnesota on April 17 at his high school.
“Playing in the Big Ten should be a fun experience,” Freeman said. “I’m really excited to join the Gophers. I think they’ve got a really nice program. They can really help become better and push me every day. I feel like I trust them. It feels like a family.”
Pitino has three scholarships left for the 2019 recruiting class, which includes Wasatch Academy (Utah) four-star guard Tre’ Williams, who played in the Geico National Championships vs. Oak Hill Academy on Thursday in New York.
Last weekend, Freeman concluded his official visit to Minnesota’s campus, saying: “It was well put together. I enjoyed it a lot.” Freeman’s father, Sam Sr., thought Pitino and the Gophers had an impressive pitch.
“The opportunity to earn playing time,” Freeman’s dad told the Star Tribune was a big selling point for his son. “The staff did a great job of recruiting him. The people in the community seem to support the program. Very nice city. The facilities were nice.”
As a senior this year at Northwest, Freeman averaged 13.5 points, 11 rebounds and 1.5 blocks for a 30-8 5A district championship team. He was picked to All-Distrcit and all-region teams. He had 28 rebounds in one game, while also posting a 22-point, 20-reboud, 10-block performance vs. Plano West High School.
“He’s a rebounder and a defender,” Freeman’s mentor and Creating Young Minds co-founder Mathis Crowder said this week. “You had (Jordan) Murphy doing a lot of the rebounding this year. He did a great job, but he was undersized. This young man is only 17 years old, and he’s 6-10 and 230. He’s basically a player they don’t make too much anymore. A rebounder, defender, hustle guy who will do all the dirty work. He’s basically what Michigan State has. Minnesota would get that. He’s that kind of kid. He’s a loyal kid, hardworking kid and has no excuses. He just does it.”
One of the coaches who followed Freeman earlier was Gophers assistant Kyle Lindsted, who had a previous relationship with Crowder when working at Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas.
“Coach Kyle saw the talent and saw the potential,” Crowder said. “And Sam’s still growing and maturing. They say he might end up 7-foot. His whole family is tall.”
The Gophers graduate two in the frontcourt with All-Big Ten forward Jordan Murphy and 7-foot center Matz Stockman. The only returning true center is 6-10 Daniel Oturu, who was one of the top freshmen in the Big Ten. Pitino also will return forwards Jarvis Omersa and Eric Curry, who had season-ending foot surgery last month.