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.

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Minnesota signs three to fill out 2014 recruiting class

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers coaches, Gophers players Updated: April 28, 2014 - 1:15 PM

One year after Minnesota's look vastly changed with the addition of new coach Richard Pitino, more transformation is on the way.

The Gophers officially completed their 2014 class on Monday with the signing of three spring recruits. Power forward Gaston Diedhiou, center Bakary Konate and guard Zach Lofton join forward Josh Martin and guards Nate Mason and JUCO Carlos "Squirrel" Morris -- the latter three signing their National Letters of Intent in the fall period -- to make up Minnesota's biggest recruiting class since 2010.

"With this signing class, we feel like we have added a great deal of athleticism," Pitino said. "That is extremely important with our style of play and as we continue to build this program."

In year two of Pitino's tenure in Dinkytown, the program will be more familiar with his new system -- a fluid, pick-and-roll heavy offense and a pressuring defense -- but the young coach has plenty of new faces to integrate.

Five of the six could immediately impact next season's squad. Lofton, a transfer from Illinois State who originally hails from St. Paul, will redshirt one year per NCAA rules. The 6-4 guard averaged 11.3 points per game on 29.2 shooting from three-point range and 33.9 shooting from the field. 

"Zach is a very talented player and has been a proven scorer in a very competitive basketball conference," Pitino said. "He grew up loving the U and will wear the Minnesota jersey with pride."

Elsewhere, the Gophers filled some critical holes with the signees. 

The 6-11 Konate, a Mali native currently playing at Sunrise Christian Academy, provides some urgently needed size in the post with centers Elliott Eliason and Mo Walker each holding just one more year of eligibility. 

"Bakary has tremendous potential -- the sky is the limit for him," Pitino said of the versatile big man. "He's a great athletes and shot blocker which is vital in our system. His best days of basketball are certainly ahead of him." 

Diedhiou -- a physical 6-9 forward and native of Senegal, currently playing in the Canary Islands -- along with Martin, will bring some depth to a power forward spot that grows very thin with Oto Osenieks retiring. Junior Joey King will compete with the pair for a starting spot and sophomore Charles Buggs should continue to grow into his body and his role.

"We are excited about signing Gaston," Pitino said. "He brings a necessary addition to our frontcourt. His size and potential will be a great asset to our team."

Mason and Morris, meanwhile, will help to solidify a backcourt that loses Austin Hollins, Maverick Ahanmisi and Malik Smith. Morris has the chance to step into a starting role at small forward immediately based on the maturity of his game and his defensive ability.

Minnesota last had six recruits four years ago when Austin Hollins, Walker, Eliason, Ahanmisi, Osenieks and Chip Armelin joined the program.

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