Minnesota basketball talent is as good as it’s ever been. You could argue the state of hockey could also be turning into the state of hoops, especially after scholarship offers pile up for the latest crop of roundball blue-chippers from the land of 10,000 lakes.
Good luck keeping up with the booming interest from Power Five schools this spring. There was a buzz last month from college coaches watching Minnesota prospects. Whether it was the Adidas Gauntlet in Dallas, Nike EYBL in Atlanta or Under Armour Association in Kansas City, Minnesotans dominated the chatter during the first live recruiting period (You can also check out many of these players locally at the Battle at the Lakes tournament May 10-12 in the Twin Cities).
Gophers coach Richard Pitino understands the need to keep the best players from leaving the state, but it won’t get any easier with the 2020 class and beyond racking up high-major offers by the day.
Minnehaha Academy 7-foot shot-blocking phenom Chet Holmgren leads the pack for hottest prospect probably in the 2021 class.
The five-star center picked up the best in-state spring offer so far with Kansas making him a priority. Holmgren, the son of former Gophers center David Holmgren, is averaging 16.5 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.6 blocks per game (1st in blocks in UAA circuit) for Grassroots Sizzle. He jumped from unranked to as high as No. 17 in ESPN’s new Class of 2021 rankings, which also included East Ridge guard Kendall Brown at No. 14.
The Gophers offered Holmgren in the winter, but just in the last month he now has scholarship list with Baylor, Purdue, Georgia, Gonzaga, Iowa, Marquette, Maryland, Missouri, Texas, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt. Eight of those offers came in the span of just two weeks. Wow.
The Jayhawks are the most high-profile program after Holmgren right now. He’s only the second Minnesota non-senior with a blue-blood offer, joining high school teammate and five-star junior Jalen Suggs.
Suggs, a 6-5 combo guard at Minnehaha Academy, joins Holmgren as another local talent quickly on the rise this spring. National recruiting services seem to forget that he once was a top-three player in the 2020 class a couple years ago. After dropping below the top 10 battling injuries last summer, Suggs proved over the weekend that he deserves to be mentioned again in the conversation for No. 1 player at his position (definitely after five-star guard RJ Hampton reclassified to the 2019 class this week).
Suggs is averaging 19.8 points (second in the UAA), 6.9 rebounds and 6.5 assists (tops in UAA) after eight games. Vanderbilt's new coach Jerry Stackhouse offered Suggs recently, along with his AAU teammates Holmgren and 2022 standout Prince Aligbe. The SEC program to keep an eye on coming into Minnesota is is Kentucky, though. Wildcats coach John Calipari and his staff were in attendance for his games in Kansas City. It will be interesting to see if Suggs sees his second blue-blood offer in the near future.
Park Center’s Dain Dainja played with both Suggs and Holmgren in AAU last year, but he’s now the top player for Howard Pulley in the EYBL. Dainja, a 6-8, 260-pound junior, is averaging about 15 points, eight rebounds and three assists this spring with the Gophers following him closely. In fact, Pitino and his staff met Wednesday with Dainja, who received an offer from Texas on Monday. Ohio State and Florida also came to see him this week.
A year ago, Matthew Hurt and Zeke Nnaji were the prospects getting the most buzz nationally. Nine players signed with Division I programs from last year’s D1 Minnesota 17s team, including Hurt (Duke) and Nnaji (Arizona). Still, D1MN hasn’t skipped a beat with an 8-0 record to open the Adidas Gauntlet circuit this spring.
Highlighting a new D1MN 17s team are 2020 prospects Dawson Garcia from Prior Lake, Ben Carlson from East Ridge and Kerwin Walton from Hopkins. Brown, a five-star 2021 guard, also joined D1 for the first time this year. The team’s biggest sleeper prospect is 6-10 junior center Steven Crowl from Eastview. Crowl has Big Ten programs coming to watch his workouts after a strong start to the AAU season.
Pitino and the Gophers followed D1 Minnesota over the weekend. They also met with Garcia, Walton and Carlson last week. Garcia is the gaining the most attention nationally right now. The 6-11 five-star junior received offers from Indiana, Oregon and Pittsburgh after they came to watch him Tuesday.
Wisconsin handed out its first two offers in the Class of 2022 to Minnesotans. Having success for years with prospects across the border (most recently Brad Davison and Nate Reuvers). Now the Badgers offered Cretin-Derham Hall point guard Tre Holloman and Wayzata wing Cam Heide on Wednesday. The Gophers already offered Holloman, but they haven't yet with Heide. Aligbe, a 6-6 leaper, has a Minnesota offer, but Missouri and Georgia joined his list in the last week.
Overall, the state of Minnesota has at least a dozen players in 2020 and 2021 with high-major offers or serious interest, while also a few in 2022. Pitino picked a good time to win an NCAA tournament game to build momentum with the Gophers program, but can he use that success to tap into arguably the deepest talent pool ever in the state?