In front of fans, friends and family Tuesday night at his high school gym, Orono forward Jarvis Thomas announced he would be staying home to play basketball for the Gophers.
But Thomas, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound senior, said he knew after an unofficial visit to campus last month that he wanted to be a Gopher.
“The biggest reason I chose Minnesota is because I went on my visit, and it just felt right,” Thomas said.
On Sunday, Thomas called coach Richard Pitino to become a member of the Gophers’ 2018 recruiting class, joining Howard Pulley AAU teammate Daniel Oturu, a 6-10 center from Cretin-Derham Hall.
“He was hyped,” Thomas said of their phone conversation. “He just kept saying, ‘I’m hyped. I’m hyped.’ He was just excited.”
Arguably the most explosive finisher in the state, Thomas proved in AAU play this summer that he was much more than just a spectacular dunker, improving his defense and rebounding.
That’s when a scholarship offer from the home-state program finally came this summer from Pitino.
Thomas went from one major conference scholarship offer last year to more than a half dozen this summer, including Wake Forest, Texas A&M, Iowa State and Pittsburgh. He’s the No. 138 player nationally in 2018 by Rivals.com and a four-star prospect by 247.com’s composite ranking.
“Physically and athletically he’s ready to be a Big Ten player,” Rivals.com analyst Eric Bossi said.
Pitino still has two scholarships left for the 2018 class, which Thomas hopes will be taken by his AAU teammates Tre Jones and Gabe Kalscheur, who arrived early Tuesday to support him. Kalscheur said Tuesday he’ll be announcing his decision soon.
“I’m definitely going to try to get those two,” Thomas said. “If we get those two, then it’s really possible for us to go to the Final Four [in 2019] to play in our backyard.”
Dozens of videos of Thomas’ alley-oop and putback dunks have been a big hit on social media. He’s grown nearly two inches in the past year. But Thomas, who started his high school career at Tartan, is still only 16.
“When he gets to Minnesota, he’s going to put on 20-30 pounds,” Orono coach Barry Wohler said. “He’s freaky athletic and just high energy. The thing he’s going to do offensively initially is he’s going to offensive rebound and finish on the break. The impact he can bring early is on the defensive end.”
When touring the construction of the Gophers’ new facilities on his visit, Thomas imagined himself there with other top Minnesota players being a part of a program on the rise.
“It was kind of mind-blowing, kind of surreal,” he said. “I just really could visualize myself — me, Daniel, Amir [Coffey] and all of the other guys just having a good time.”