Evaluating talent is not always about selecting from the highest-ranked players – especially for programs like Minnesota, which have potential but are in a building stage.
Sometimes you have to try to find a gem in the rough.
The Gophers are looking at a possible such candidate right now.
Fred Iduwe, a Nigerian native and 2014 recruit, is basically an unknown at this point. Perhaps that’s because he’s only been playing organized basketball for about three and a half years.
But already, he has intrigued the Gophers’ staff, and his new coach, Bryan Clayton, at St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy in Wisconsin.
While Iduwe – who is listed at 7 feet, but whom Clayton says is really more like 6-11 – is very green, what has stuck out is the raw ability and upside of a lengthy frame with impressive speed.
“For a man his size, he’s very, very athletic,” Clayton said. “He runs like a deer. Long arms. Right now, he’s a rim protector and a guy that can put pressure on opposing teams because of his motor. So, what he lacks in skills, he makes up for in just pure motor – how hard he plays and how intense he is.”
Iduwe has only been in the United States for about two years, coming overseas through a Nigerian program called the Ejike Ugboaja Foundation, named after the founder, a professional basketball player from Nigeria who was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2006 and has played in leagues in various countries since. The foundation selects only prospects with good grades and who would seem to thrive in the transition.
Last season, Iduwe attended and played at Central Park High School in Birmingham, Ala., where Gophers target Abdoulaye Gueye is currently enrolled.
Here's video from last season:
Rather than take his chances with the 2013 recruiting class, Iduwe decided to attend prep school at St. John’s this year. Clayton said the progress he’s since since Iduwe showed up in June is “significant,” and part of the allure, since the center has never had anyone work with him from a pure skills standpoint and has a ton of room to grow.
Just over a month after Iduwe’s arrival, Clayton picked up the phone and called Dan McHale and Ben Johnson – whom he knew from previous recruiting situations – and mentioned his new player, telling the Gophers assistants he believed he had “high-major potential.”
“He’s not a finished product by any means, but he’s definitely improving every day and that’s part of the intrigue I think,” Clayton said.
Of course, while such inexperience inspires dreams about the upside, it also poses a real risk of never panning out. The Gophers have yet to offer, but are very interested in continuing the conversation. They watched Iduwe play in Las Vegas over the summer, and first contacted him a couple weeks ago.
The only offers on the table for Iduwe currently are from UW-Green Bay and North Dakota. Tulane, Bradley, Tulsa and Wichita State have all shown some level of interest. Clayton says he plans to drive Iduwe to Minnesota “soon” so that he can unofficially see the campus there. Iduwe has also unofficially visited Green Bay.
One other thing that makes this development interesting is that Iduwe is close friendship with Gueye, who the Gophers really like. Strangely, Gueye had nothing to do with Iduwe’s recruitment by Minnesota – but now the idea of playing together at the next level is interesting to both.
“It was just ironic,” Clayton said. “[Iduwe] didn’t know Minnesota was recruiting [Gueye] at first, and then once he found that out, they have since talked about it – I think they’re both really intrigued by the possibility.”