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Pitino explains why walk-on Haugh got scholarship over Sharp

Earlier this month, the Gophers announced that walk-on Darin Haugh had been given a scholarship for the upcoming season, a move that came to the surprise of some who had watched fellow walk-on Stephon Sharp make notable gains this spring.

On Tuesday, coach Richard Pitino said the decision was primarily about seniority; Haugh, a 5-10 guard from Prior Lake, is a senior, Sharp is a sophomore.

“I told Steph ‘This has nothing to do with you,’” Pitino said. “’Darin has been in the program longer than you have. He’s done everything right.’

“Sometimes you have to make tough decisions but I think Darin has earned it …Darin has been great on the court, off the court, he’s a great leader. And I’m happy he got that opportunity.”

Haugh joined the Gophers before the 2014-15 season, sitting out that year due to NCAA rules after transferring from Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato. Last year, Haugh appeared in six games, scoring two points.

The Gophers were able to give him a scholarship after redshirt senior Charles Buggs graduated and transferred to USC for his final season of eligibility.

Sharp, a 6-3 guard from Bloomington, scored just four points in 11 appearances through Feb. 4, but was inserted into the starting lineup down the stretch after a dismissal and three suspensions handicapped the backcourt. In those four remaining games, Sharp averaged 13.5 points in 36.5 minutes per game.

Pitino said Sharp was “disappointed” following the team’s decision, but the coach told the guard to look at it another way.

“I told him, big picture, this should excite him,” Pitino said. “Because if you do the right thing, we’ll take care of you. We’ve shown we’ll do that and we’ll continue to do that if we can for our guys.”

Local talent in 2018 class dominates Gophers' attention

Even as the signing period for 2017 recruits approaches later this fall (Nov. 9-16), much of the remaining summer will be about 2018 recruits for the Gophers. Minnesota’s coaching staff expects to snag two prospects for the 2017 class but the following year, the Gophers will have five more scholarships available to give with the eligibilities of Nate Mason, Bakary Konate, Gaston Diedhiou, Reggie Lynch and Davonte Fitzgerald all expiring.

The Gophers will have to address a few needs: if a point guard isn’t signed this fall, nabbing one for the 2018 class will likely be a priority. Otherwise, Minnesota will be in dire need of bodies in the post with all three big men (Konate, Diedhiou and Lynch) leaving simultaneously. Some experience could go a long way there, so don’t be surprised if the Gophers go the JUCO or graduate transfer route if intriguing possibilities open up. For now, Richard Pitino and Co. are honing in on a loaded group of local high school juniors who could fit in with the Gophers' pick-and-roll offense and the pressuring defensive style the fourth-year coach hopes to play.

Here’s a look at a few of Minnesota’s top targets:

The locals:

Tre Jones – Just as it did with older brother Tyus, the hype surrounding this point guard is beginning to reach a fever pitch as he enters his junior season. Currently the 6-1 Tre Jones is ranked 54th in ESPN’s rankings for the class, but his game has time to develop yet. Jones stands out defensively and has exhibited an eye for passing lanes, much like his brother. Rumors that he’d like to attend college close to Tyus – who now plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves – give the Gophers a chance, but also like Tyus, the believed favorite suitor for Tre is Duke.

Race Thompson – The son of Darrell Thompson – the Gophers’ all-time leading rusher in football – the   6-8 Plymouth native’s athleticism is obvious, but Race Thompson is primed to show it off at the next level in a different sport. Thompson, who has also played football at Robbinsdale Armstrong, has enviable guard skills in a bigger frame, both of which could serve him well in the Big Ten. He also has offers from Iowa State, Kansas State, Marquette and Nebraska, among others.

Adam Trapp – It doesn’t take much guess work to understand why the Gophers – and other regional schools like Iowa, DePaul and Wisconsin – are interested in Trapp. At 7-2, he’s one of the tallest recruits to come out of Minnesota in a while. Trapp, who at 200 pounds still needs to do a lot of growing outwards, runs the floor well for his size and has a decent handle on the ball. The biggest learning curve will come in the Esko native learning to battle in the paint.

Jarvis Thomas-Omersa – The up-and-coming 6-7 St. Paul power forward is garnering interest from some mid-major schools along with Minnesota and Iowa State, in large part because of potential he shows as a shot-blocker who is developing some solid moves in the post.

Daniel Oturu – Minnesota offered the 6-9 power forward this spring, joining the likes of Northern Iowa, Providence and Creighton. The St. Paul native, at just over 200 pounds, is lean and still raw but has a natural athleticism that could bode well for his future.

Gabe Kalscheur – DeLaSalle in Minneapolis has produced some very talented basketball prospects the last several years and the trend continues with Kalscheur, who is a rising prospect in the 2018 class. The 6-4 guard is a true scorer with a quick release and accurate touch from the outside and the ability to get to the basket.

The others:

Jordan McCabe – The 5-11, four-star point guard from Wisconsin might be undersized but McCabe certainly has flash from three-point range and has drawn interest of some sort from more than 15 schools, including Iowa State, Michigan State, UCLA and Wisconsin.

Moses Brown -- Another four-star recruit, the 6-10 Brown has the size Minnesota needs and already looks comfortable around the basket. With a nice touch at the hoop and a bent for physical play, the Brooklyn star should blossom into a very strong recruit.