At a powerfully built 6-foot-8 and 225 pounds, Jarvis Omersa might already look like he’s in college, but he still has another few weeks before joining the Gophers next month.
Nobody would guess Omersa will be the youngest player on the University of Minnesota basketball roster this season. He won’t turn 18 until July 27.
Gophers fans got a glimpse of what type of freak athlete Omersa already is from the dunk show he put on at the Howard Pulley Invitational last weekend. He teamed up with seniors from the area and former Pulley AAU members, including fellow U recruit Gabe Kalscheur.
Omersa’s 40-inch vertical and 7-foot wingspan was on display with him flushing down lob passes and punishing the rim with windmills, 360s and a couple high rising slams off the backboard that went viral on social media.
“I threw myself a lob off the backboard,” Omersa said about one of his favorite plays over the weekend. “I drove to my right acted like I was going to pull up. Got (the defender) in the air, threw it off the glass and dunked it.”
The highlight that got the most attention from a video on Twitter was his swooping alley-oop dunk on a pass off the backboard from teammate Calvin Wishart.
“That was insanely high,” Omersa said about the pass. “I was really far back. I called out glass, so I couldn’t not jump for it. It was definitely fun. I can’t wait until next year.”
Practicing against All-Big Ten power forward Jordan Murphy will “be really good for me,” Omersa said about when he joins the team this summer. Murphy is one of the most athletic players in the Big Ten, but Gophers coach Richard Pitino said Omersa will be the best athlete on the team.
“I don’t even think it’s close that he’s hands down the best athlete,” Pitino said. “I haven’t recruited a lot of crazy dunkers. Jarvis is one of the best athletes in the country. Jarvis excites me. Being a great athlete is great. That’s not what makes you a great player. But I think he’s got a lot of intangibles: Underrated passer, terrific rebounder, great size and strength. That’s what excites me.”
Omersa knows everyone will label him as a dunker coming into college, but he’s working on showing the Gophers he can be much more than that. He hopes to impact the game on both ends of the floor.
“Definitely athleticism is a big part of my game,” he said. “But if you ask people that play with me it’s not just the athleticism. They say that when they play with me it’s about playing hard. I just bring intensity and energy to the game when I play.”
Omersa added: “I’ve definitely been in the lab working. That’s what I need at this level for sure to be able to shoot and put the ball on the floor for sure. But defense for sure, rebounding for sure, running the floor for sure will get me on the court right away.”
Omersa, Kalscheur from DeLaSalle and Daniel Oturu from Cretin-Derham Hall make up the most anticipated recruiting class for the Gophers in almost a decade. The last time the U had at least three Minnesota natives in one class was 2009.
Oturu and Omersa will be roommates this summer. Oturu, the top prospect in the class, is sidelined until the fall after shoulder surgery last month. Omersa said he and Kalscheur are sad to see Oturu won’t get to practice with them when they all start summer school in mid-June. The three freshmen, though, got to pick out their numbers recently. Omersa is No. 21. Kalscheur is No. 22. Oturu is No. 25.
Competing for a starting spot in the frontcourt are goals for Omersa and Oturu. But all three freshmen feel strongly about the Gophers being able to turnaround from last season’s 15-17 record.
“As a team I want to win and win big games,” Omersa said. “I want to be on a winning team. I know we’ll be a winning team. I also want to compete for championships and all that.”