Coming on the heels of the 2015 class and all its hype and moving parts, Minnesota’s 2016 recruiting landscape is far less interesting. The Gophers – after signing Davonte Fitzgerald this week – will have just two scholarships to give, and one of them has already been reserved for Rochester small forward Michael Hurt, who committed to his home-state university in January.
He joins a Gophers future that is suddenly heavy on wings with 2015 signees Jordan Murphy and Ahmad Gilbert joining Hurt in lineups down the road.
Would Minnesota go after yet another wing for 2016? There are a few the Gophers have been looking at this summer including Xavier Sneed and Willie Jackson – who were both in Minneapolis for the EYBL session this weekend – as well as Hopkins’ Amir Coffey, who is sitting out this summer with a torn ACL.
Sneed is a four-star recruit out of Missouri – he grew up a Tigers fan, he said, but is trying to ignore that for the sake of his decision – and has compiled a notable list of offers, mostly involving Midwest schools with Wichita State jumping on board most recently. His athleticism and activeness of both sides of the ball has attracted Minnesota’s coaching staff, which wasn’t present at this weekend’s event due to an NCAA mandated “dead” recruiting period.
“My motor, the fact that I run the court a lot,” Sneed said. “They said they love that and they need that. That I’m not afraid to go against anybody. I love to go against the other team’s best defenders. I’m not afraid of anything.”
Sneed (6-5) and Jackson (6-6) both have decent size, but the Gophers appear to have cooled on the latter, who isn’t quite as skilled.
Jackson, a Cleveland native, didn’t even start playing basketball until he was 14 – when he broke his collarbone playing baseball and subsequently gave up his dream of playing in the MLB. As much as anything, he is a competitor – he also plays soccer and runs track at Garfield Heights High School.
“I just play so I can get the offer and then go to school,” said the King James player, who is as excited to major in criminal justice as he is to get a basketball scholarship. “It’s all about getting in school.”
Coach Richard Pitino and his staff, understandably, have cast a wide net to fill that single scholarship to insure they get the right fit and don’t come up empty.
Still, unless Coffey –who is currently ranked 46th nationally according to Rivals – decides to give the Gophers the nod, Minnesota would probably be better suited to look outside of the wing corps moving forward, especially considering the needs in the frontcourt.