This is Amelia Rayno's third season on the Gophers men's basketball beat. She learned college basketball in North Carolina (Go Tar Heels!), where fanhood is not an option. In 2010, she joined the Star Tribune after graduating from Boston's Emerson College, which sadly had no exciting D-I college hoops to latch onto. Amelia has also worked on the sports desk at the Boston Globe and interned at the Detroit News.

  Follow Rayno on Twitter @AmeliaRayno

aMAILiaBAG: Ranking the Gophers' recruiting targets? What are Minnesota's chances of getting Buckles? What would Bigfoot do to Teen Wolf?

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers coaches, Gophers players Updated: August 9, 2013 - 2:16 PM

 

 

Howdy. I'm coming to you from the heart of the Ozarks, on vacation, because that's just how much I care (and don't forget it). There's plenty of recruiting news going on this time of year, and with the start of the season just around the corner as well, I thought it would be a good time to answer some of the questions that are trickling in. For future mailbags, send your questions to amelia.rayno@startribune.com or on Twitter @AmeliaRayno, using the hashtag #aMAILiaBAG.

Questions are in bold; my answers in regular type.

Obviously we know Tyus is the #1 Gopher recruit, but I think most Gophers fans have accepted we have no shot at him. I’d love to hear your rankings of our recruits using this completely made up formula:

Rank = Potential impact on the program x Probability the Gophers land player

I realize it’s nearly impossible to make an accurate guess for either of these criteria, but this would make it a little easier for those of us who don’t know all these non-MN targets to decide which guys are worthy of a closer look (and potentially a YouTube highlight binge).

Joe Geistfeld

That’s an interesting idea, Joe, and one I’ve decided could be kind of fun, if highly speculative (keep that in mind, please). To keep things a little bit simpler, let’s limit the list to 2014 recruits, shall we? Since it doesn’t make much sense for me to rank these guys’ talent level (that is everywhere), I’ve just ranked the likelihood the Gophers will get them on.

Not every 2014 recruit the Gophers have offered is on this list because, simply, I haven’t talked with all of them, certainly not them all extensively, and with many offered recently, it’s tough to get a practical reading on them at this point. At the same time, remember that this a ranking as of today. As with any situation, those rankings could change substantially depending on what happens with the others. So, if the Gophers sign one of these point guards, the others become much less likely. Etc. Etc.


1. JP Macura: (3-star) – I believe playing for his home-state school would be a draw for Macura, who showed up for a Gophers practice earlier this week. Brad Stevens leaving Butler, which initially seemed like the favorite, kind of helps redirect his interest. Macura has also talked about visits to Purdue, Iowa State, Kansas State, Creighton, Vanderbilt and Xavier.

2. Lourawls Nairn Jr.: (4-star) – I think the Gophers have a good shot with Nairn, who would seem to be a good fit. He has said that Minnesota is among the short list of schools contacting him the most. With Ja’Quan Newton off the board and Josh Perkins potentially leaning elsewhere, Nairn could be the No. 1 non-Tyus point guard target going forward.

3. Wade Baldwin: (3-star) – He narrowed his list to five last week and included the Gophers, citing the dedication the new Minnesota staff has put into his recruitment. But with Florida State jumping on board this week, they have suddenly been added to the rest of the competition (also including Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Virginia Tech and Vanderbilt). The 6-3 shooting guard could edit someone out – as he insinuated on Twitter – but he hasn’t done it yet.

4. Alex Robinson: (4-star) – Expect a narrowed list soon from Robinson, who told Rivals he is in the process of setting up a visit with Minnesota. The point guard has already has an unofficial trip to Pittsburgh, and officials to TCU and Memphis (happening currently) in the books and has plans for Vanderbilt and Texas A&M.

5. Josh Martin: (3-star) – The Seattle-area power forward already has a visit to Florida State set up and is in talks with the Gophers about one to Minnesota. The 6-8 Martin told Rivals that his top four is those two plus Oklahoma State and Washington.

6. Reid Travis: (4-star) – I think Travis’ status has changed tremendously since Pitino came to town. He’s now talked of saving one of his officials for the Gophers and the renewed consideration sounds sincere. Set up a visit for UCLA. Listed the Bruins, Gophers among the other teams he’s strongly considering, including Stanford, Michigan State, Gonzaga (the only school he’s already visited officially), Georgetown and Notre Dame. Travis, who is at the top of the Gophers’ wish list, told me a couple of months ago that he plans to use one of his officials at Minnesota.

7. Josh Perkins: (4-star) – The Gophers have cracked his top-five list, but the thought is that Gonzaga (also on the list) remains the favorite. His commitment date of Aug. 25 is coming up.

8. Terry Larrier: (4-star) – Minnesota is definitely in the mix, though with 10 teams on his new list, the small forward clearly isn’t ready to condense his recruitment too much yet. Also on the list are St. John’s, UConn (both of which he plans on visiting later in this month, according to Zagsblog.com), Penn State, Marquette, Florida State, Miami, VCU and Seton Hall.

9. Quentin Snider: (4-star) – It’s too early to say what the former Louisville commit is thinking, but his history with Pitino can’t hurt. That said, Snider could want to stay closer to home. His father told Zagsblog.com that the 6-1 point guard plans to visit Indiana and Xavier unofficially and UConn, UCLA and USC.

10. Rashad Vaughn: (5-star) – Transferring to Findlay Prep didn’t help the Gophers’ case for the shooting guard, who has offers aplenty. But the Gophers are giving it their all, and good relationships have been made. Am I saying there’s a chance? Yes, there’s a chance.

11. Paul White: (4-star) – Right now, White is focusing on just getting back on the court after a gruesome injury last month, but a shortened list is expected soon. Will Minnesota be on it? “I can’t make any promises, but if coach Pitino keeps hitting me up, I mean, it’s a good chance,” he said.

12. Josh Cunningham: (4-star) – Cunningham likes the Gophers’ style of play, which is great. But the small forward told Rivals writer Ryan James that he, so far, wants to visit Oklahoma and Iowa State. Missouri, Nebraska, St. John’s and Virginia Tech are among the other schools recruiting Cunningham.

13. Bonzie Colson: (3-star) – The power forward told NBC’s College Basketball Talk that he is leaning toward visits to Notre Dame (already scheduled), Florida State, Miami and Pittsburgh.

14. Isaiah Whitehead: (5-star) – There hasn’t been a ton of steam surrounding Whitehead and Minnesota anyway – and if the package deal discussed by he and Newton comes to fruition, well, that ship has sailed.

15. Tyus Jones: (5-star) – Minnesota is still on the list, but as Gophers fans have known for a while, Jones sees a lot of bright lights elsewhere.


Others the others are involved with (too early to get a good read):

Abdolaye Gueye – The 6-9 power forward is possibly in talks about a visit with Minnesota, and also told Rivals he wants to go to Memphis and Mississippi at some point.

Milik Yarbrough – According to Rivals’ Ryan James, Yarbrough will visit Minnesota on Sept. 21 and the small forward also has a visit scheduled for Auburn. Interest starting to really build for Yarbrough but currently, he’s still not ranked.

Kyle Kuzma – The 6-7, extremely versatile wing told Rivals he thought Minnesota coaches were trying to take the Gophers to the next level and that he feels like a priority. It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks in his recruitment, so things are probably not yet at their peak. Arizona State, Florida State, Memphis, UConn, Penn State and Texas A&M are among other schools that are interested.

With so many offers outstanding from Pitino and the new BB staff, is it really as simple as the Gophers accepting the first 4-5 players who say, "Yes?" Or will they pull offers to point guards, for example, if one PG accepts to make sure they don't get overloaded at one position vs another?

-MNdailyGuy

This is a question I’ve been asked a lot recently, and is probably something that Gophers fans are thinking about more now with the increased spotlight on recruiting. There isn’t really a formula for how this all works out. For sure, sometimes it can be a little bit of a guessing game on the part of the Minnesota staff. The coaches have to choose to go hardest after the recruits that a) they like the most and b) they think they have the best chance with. Ideally, you are going hardest after the recruits that are the best blend of those two. My point in this is that while the staff does offer a wide net, the hope is that they do not end up with four (or however many scholarship there are in any given year) recruits they don’t really want, or too many guards or so forth.

Some of it takes care of itself, too. If one good point guard commits to a school, it often deters others. But coaches don’t have their hands tied after commitments. I doesn’t always unfold the way you would hope it does, but private conversations can be had suggesting decommitment, explaining the lack of playing time. Ultimately, if a school is overloaded at positions or with the players they don’t want as the next, it benefits everyone for a kid to consider going elsewhere. These situations happen, although they aren’t always highly publicized.

Mo Walker: how impactful will his new svelte form manifest in minutes a game? Also, teen wolf vs. bigfoot in 1:1, who wins?

@mikelinnemann

Well, here’s the thing: While what Mo Walker has done is truly impressive, he’s still pretty far away from where he needs to be to excel in this new system. As Pitino has pointed out, Walker will never be athletic, and simply getting conditioned enough to run as much as he will be expected to will be a significant battle, even if/after his ultimate weight loss goal is met. My guess is that you’re going to see Walker get minutes – after all, this Gophers team isn’t the deepest in the frontcourt – but he’s not going to be a starter, and frankly, he still has a lot to improve (and will need to work on that jump shot) if he wants to play a major role in 2013-14.

As for Bigfoot vs. Teen Wolf: Please. I mean please. I take bigfoot in any number of criteria: development (an adult vs. a teen), strength, size, ferocity, agility (wolf vs. ape). I understand that Teen Wolf plays above the rim, but Michael J. Fox is like 5’4”. He’s getting killed.

If you could make a guess for the 2014 recruiting class now, who would it consist of?

@KyleLeonard11

I think the above chart should give you a sort of window into my thoughts … anyone with a four or higher, I obviously think has a pretty good chance.

Making all these cuts [lists] is great but realistically, in your opinion, how many final cuts will the #gophers make?

@tfad20

Well, they only need four – they can’t take more than that. The Gophers’ staff has smartly cast a wide net and really exercised their travel budget, constantly getting around and seeing recruits. At home, they’ve been doing their due diligence and making the calls and sending the texts. The difference in the effort in that regard from last year’s staff is incredible, and pretty obvious to anyone dialed into the recruiting scene. That said, the Gophers won’t get all of their top targets next year. They might not have a class that will blow anyone away. These things take time, after all, and the staff has only gotten started. What they’ve done in a short time, however, cannot be dismissed, and the fact that they are sneaking onto so many elite prospects’ short lists, is a step in the right direction – even if it doesn’t immediately yield game-changing recruits. They’re getting the respect, which is a sign of very good things to come.

What do you think the odds are that we get Buckles? #aMAILiaBAG

@mattprivratsky

The Gophers are still going hard after the big man, and he would be a huge lift to the 2013-14 team, which is in great need of some frontcourt help. He won’t come unless he gets his waiver to play immediately, and that will require him to get his grades in order. The longer things go, the less likely it seems, but it’s still very much a work in progress. I wouldn’t be surprised either way, to be honest.

How come most recruiting steam surrounding the gophers is guard heavy?

@Jboog35

Well, much of that is because that’s really the bulk of what is available right now. For the most part, the best players the Gophers are seeing are guards. Understandably, finding a dynamic point guard is at the top of Pitino’s list, so it’s not surprising that there’s a lot of buzz that way. But Minnesota isn’t ignoring big men, as you can see in the list above. Several of those are prospects the Gophers have recently gotten serious with. But it makes sense considering Pitino’s new guard-heavy, fast-paced system, that he would put a lot of emphasis on finding great guards early.

Hey Amelia,

Hope the offseason is treating you well!

Just looking at the roster and hearing Pitino say positive things about Maverick... Would you say that we will see more of Andre Hollins on the wing this year? Also with the addition of Smith how do you see that playing out?

Thanks

Kent

Yes, I think Hollins will get plenty of opportunities at shooting guard this year, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he spends a majority of his time there. The point guard position, right now, is very much up for competition, I believe, considering the Gophers have so many comparable options. No doubt Hollins will continue to be one of the anchors of this Minnesota team, but whether the bulk of his contributions come at the 1 or the 2 remains to be seen. Pitino has been complimentary of Ahanmisi early on, and I know Malik Smith has a big advantage in already being so comfortable with the system. It should make for some good completion – and possibly some interesting experimenting with the different options early on.

BONUS BIGFOOT QUESTION

Do you think Bigfoot would be my friend. #aMAILiaBAG
@RandballsStu

Yes I do, Stu. I think he would be your friend. Until you ran out of meat.
 

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