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: Recruiting, how Josh Martin will fit in and whether the gray wolf resurgance is good for Bigfoot

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers players, Recruiting, Richard Pitino Updated: October 16, 2013 - 10:21 AM

What can we expect from Josh Martin? I have heard he is a pretty good athlete, but a little raw in other facets of his game. How do you feel he fits into Pitino's ideal system? 

Joe Kulas

I agree that Josh Martin has some rawness to him – but what current high school senior at his star-level doesn’t? If Martin can do the things he needs to this season, shoring up his fundamentals and his overall skill set (and I do believe he’ll put the work in), I think he could be a productive member of the 2013-14 Pitino squad. The 6-8 power forward is extremely athletic and has developed a pretty good jump shot as well – two prerequisites for Pitino’s uptempo system.

Amelia,

2 possible questions for your mail bag:

Any idea why Josh Martin dropped from a 4-star to a 2-star in the recent ESPN rankings? That seems like kind of an oddly steep drop. 

How does Pitino's approach to recruiting so far compare to Tubby's? Pitino seems to really cast a wide net and be in contact with quite a few players. Was Tubby similar or did he prefer to zero in on specific targets and spend more time with them?

Thanks!

Aaron

Each are good questions, Aaron, so I’ll answer them both. First, the drop in stars in the ESPN rankings. Yes, a two-star drop is pretty dramatic. Whether it was warranted depends on who you talk to. There was a recent change in the folks who rank players for the ESPN, so it’s possible that those newly looking at Martin didn’t feel he warranted four stars (or three). These rankings are still somewhat subjective, and can vary based on what day the rankers happened to see the kid.

As for your second question – in my experience, Tubby Smith’s staff went after far fewer recruits, usually 3-star kids. As you indicated, Pitino and Co. has casted a much wider net in the first recruiting summer. There’s an argument to be made for that strategy all the time, I think, except that it wears a staff very, very thin. But certainly, I think it made sense with this being the first year. The staff put its feelers out, instigated relationships with coaches and those around the AAU scene (that could be helpful later), and frankly, reached for the stars. Of course, they’ve gotten a lot more rejections. But I think as much as anything, those near misses showed that getting some of the elite crop of recruits to Minnesota – say maybe in a few years, if the Gophers can overachieve a little – isn’t so crazy.

I've been a Gopher season ticket holder since 1980.  I'm wondering the recruiting status of Alex Illikainen and Henry Ellenson?

I enjoy your column.  Keep up the good work.

Jeff Pohland

Thanks, Jeff. The Gophers staff has already started to make inroads with those two 2015 recruits, both of whom were offered by Minnesota quickly. Ellenson, in particular, has been around campus quite a bit with brother, Wally on the current team. Still a long ways to go with these guys, so it’s hard to get any real sense of where they will ultimately go right now – I don’t think either of them have any idea, either.

Any updates on Gueye?  Any new targets the Gophers are looking at?  

Jim

Abdoulaye Gueye could still be a possibility for the Gophers, and they still like him very much. To my knowledge, there is still no official visit set up right now. Other focuses for Minnesota right now include Chicago wing Josh Cunningham (visiting next weekend), Carlos Morris and of course, the local Big Three -- Tyus Jones, Reid Travis and Rashad Vaughn. I think with many recruits off the board, the Gophers staff is taking a good look at the field right now. We could see some new targets emerge in the next couple of weeks.

Amelia,

Has a "Midnight Madness" been scheduled for this year? 

Thanks,

Gary Olson

There will be no traditional Midnight Madness event this season. Pitino said he’s looking for some “creative” things to do, but no word on any kind of replacement event at this time.

#aMAILiabag both (Carlos) Morris and (Nate) Mason seem like 2-guards to me. They'd both help, but are the gophers recruiting any point guards?

@JohnPucci

Mason is really more of a combo guard, but the Gophers have also been contacting Keith Pinckley and Jalyn Patterson as well. Tough to say who’s the favorite here, and the situation is likely evolving quite a bit. I hope to get in touch with these recruits soon to get a better feel.

Could a Yeti play center for Pitino?

@markholub

Massive and intimidating but incredibly light on his feet? I’d say so … as long as he can learn to hit a jump shot.

Will we see Wally Ellenson play four this season, or a similar small-ball lineup if Buggs and Oto are unimpressive?

@jmag21

Hm, Wally would be an awfully small 4, but it seems obvious that Pitino will have to do some experimenting and some things that are not ideal. Joey King, I think, will be a good bet for that job IF HE’S AVAILABLE, which, considering the NCAA’s delay in decision is far from certain. But since the bulk of the talent on this team is in the back court, I think in general we could see a lot of small ball.

@FromTheBarn [a local blogger] says that point guard is not an immediate recruiting need for the Gophers, what do you think?

@toddhennen

I disagree. While the Gophers have a lot of immediate guard options, they still don’t really have a point guard of the future on their roster. They don’t need to seek another PG for the sake of it – if they’re not pumped about someone, for example, it would obviously make sense to wait. But even though Pitino has said all the guards are kind of interchangeable in his system, I think he would change his tune on that if he had a true, elite floor general. The right guy will make the new offense as productive as possible.

Any word on whether Milik Yarbrough will visit this week? 247 has visit listed.

@Chunz18

That’s false. I don’t actually think Minnesota is even interested in Yarbrough.

What does Josh Martin’s commitment mean in regards to Reid Travis #Gophers

@skierguy06

Not much. The Gophers would certainly sign both, and Travis is more of a traditional power forward, while Martin could play the wing if they needed him too. That said, I don’t think Travis to Minnesota is looking very likely at this stage.

BONUS BIGFOOT QUESTION:

Is resurgence of grey wolf good or bad for Bigfoot and his already limited habitat?

@BrianChipper

I’m going to say good. Bigfoots are often found in areas with a high wolf density, as they mooch off them quite a bit. Sasquatches’ main meat source is believed to be organs – which means they can dive in after a wolf kill and make off with the scraps.

Lots of other Bigfoot items in the news this week. These two were seen in Pennsylvania and ... the long awaited Erickson Project will be available soon!

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