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

Minnesota target Nate Grimes has quickly ascended after getting involved with basketball in high school

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers coaches, Gophers players Updated: July 10, 2014 - 11:54 AM


Nate Grimes has compiled 25 scholarship offers -- Minnesota included -- and a national rating teetering toward the top-100, according to Rivals.

But in the eyes of his AAU coach and mentor, Lamar Bigby, the Las Vegas forward isn't even close to touching his potential.

Bigby has some perspective on the subject. After all, he's watched as many gatekeepers throughout Grimes' basketball past shook their heads no at the prospect. And he looked on last year as the suitors piled up, the 6-foot-7 Grimes flexing his raw basketball ability in just his first full season playing varsity basketball.

"He's a four-year guy that can continue to get better," Bigby said. "You can build your program around a guy like that."

Minnesota, intrigued by Grimes' athleticism and versatility, has made its interest clear. The Gophers offered in May and have stayed close in touch since.

Bigby, meanwhile, sees in the Gophers a near-ideal program for developing a player that is perhaps still underrated. He's listened to coach Richard Pitino talk of the time he sets aside for individual instruction. He's seen the statistical improvements from a handful of the players Pitino inherited after just one year.

"Minnesota is at the top for sure, for sure," Bigby said. "We believe in what coach Pitino is doing and what the staff does as far as the development of kids."

The promise of development is an aspect he considers very important in Grimes' choice.

Bigby met Grimes when the lanky ninth grader first showed up at Cheyenne High School in North Las Vegas. The varsity team wasn't interested in Grimes, who according to Bigby played "very little" basketball in middle school. Neither was JV.

Bigby was coaching the freshman team at the time and an of his assistants happened to be present for one of Grimes' failed tryouts. He reported back: there was a newcomer Bigby needed to see.

When the head coach did, he saw a skinny, 6-foot-5 project, somewhat unsure of himself or how to use his broad shoulders and long arms.

And he saw something else:

"This kid is going to be good," he thought.

That season, Bigby estimates Grimes averaged 13 points a game. After practices, the coach would train him individually. But the next year -- his sophomore season -- after tryouts, the Cheyenne coaches wanted to promote him only to JV. 

Grimes ultimately didn't play at all, struggling to stay academically eligible throughout the winter, but he made the most of his summer, where he continued to play for Bigby on his Las Vegas Knicks AAU team. The coach had founded the program two years earlier, the summer before discovering Grimes.

Despite missing a full season of high school basketball, Grimes was spectacular.

By the start of classes, he'd collected 10 scholarships.

After his junior year at Desert Pines -- where Grimes transferred after his sophomore season -- the forward picked up his grades and heaped more offers to his growing stack, with schools such as Oregon State, New Mexico, Boston College, Colorado State and Minnesota hopping on board.

The rising senior is capable of playing several different positions -- from shooting guard to power forward -- and has shown a lot of natural skill in rebounding and defense. 

Now, Grimes -- whom Bigby describes as intensely loyal and a "throwback," unfazed by his new popularity -- is close to narrowing his list. Then the pair will consider visits. The coach wouldn't name any favorites except one.

"Minnesota ain't going nowhere," he said. "We really like Minnesota ... they'll be there, they'll be right up there at the very, very top."

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