What was the best way for the Gophers to showcase a brand new athletic facility this summer?
How about inviting players and squads from all over the state of Minnesota, the region and the country to compete in six games on your campus during a weekend in June.
That’s what Minnesota coach Richard Pitino did with Saturday’s Gophers Team Camp at the U’s new Athletes Village facility (Star Tribune virtual tour).
Many of the top prospects in Minnesota have been on unofficial visits to see Athletes Village since it opened in January. This will be the first time players, fans and coaches can all be there together to see in person what investing $166 million into Gophers athletics looks like.
“It was important to host it in this building and let the building do the talking,” Pitino said. “To have all these really good teams come in here to see the commitment level and facilities is great. They get to just feel it and operate out of it every single day. It will be a really good recruiting tool for us.”
The Gophers hosted previous team camps primarily at Williams Arena and the Sports Pavilion, which were not air conditioned. Pitino also remembers it being uncomfortably hot when Minnesota’s team camp was held one summer in the program’s makeshift practice gym at the Bierman athletic complex.
“We’ve had some really, really good team camps in the past for five years,” Pitino said this week. “A lot of great talent has been in here, but it always seems like it’s been the hottest weekend of the year. So from a comfort standpoint I’m very excited about that.”
Players to watch in Saturday’s team camp include Rochester John Marshall senior Matthew Hurt, Hopkins senior Zeke Nnaji and sophomore Kerwin Walton and Blaise Beauchamp, DeLaSalle senior Tyrell Terry, Prior Lake senior Robert Jones and junior Dawson Garcia, Park Center junior Dain Dainja, East Ridge senior Courtney Brown, junior Ben Carlson and sophomore Kendall Brown and Cretin-Derham Hall freshman Tre Holloman.
Games run Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at four Athlete Village courts, Maturi Pavilion and Williams Arena. Some matchups to watch are DeLaSalle (Terry) vs. Northridge Prep at 9 a.m. at Athletes Village Court 1, Rochester John Marshall (Hurt) vs. MoKan Elite at 10:05 a.m. at Athletes Village Court 2, East Ridge (Carlson and Brown brothers) vs. Prior Lake (Jones and Garcia) at 12:15 p.m. on AV Court 2, Cretin-Derham Hall (Holloman) vs. Rochester John Marshall at 2:35 p.m. at AV Court 1, East Ridge vs. Park Center (Dainja) at 4:35 p.m. at AV Court 2, Rochester John Marshall vs. Hopkins (Nnaji, Beauchamp and Walton) at 6:45 p.m. at AV Court 2 and Prior Lake vs. CDH at 8:55 p.m. on AV Court 1.
-- If you miss some of the action Saturday at the U, several of the same Minnesota high school teams will be competing in the Breakdown Boys Summer State Tournament at Hopkins on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., including Gophers targets Hurt, Garcia, Dainja and more.