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Nine names to follow as Gophers 2017 basketball recruiting picks up

Summer evaluation periods began this month and thus college hoops recruiting is in full force, with the Gophers coaching staff – just like staffs at every other school -- scrambling to secure commitments, fill holes and come out with a stronger looking future.

The Gophers will have just two scholarships available to give recruits for the 2017-18 class (Graduate Akeem Springs’ eligibility will expire and former walk-on Darin Haugh’s one-year scholarship will expire). As usual, Minnesota has cast a wide net in order to find its ideal candidates, but the Gophers are beginning to hone in as the school year gets nearer.

A couple of clear trends stand out:

Minnesota and Minnesota East – Just like the last class, the Gophers are high on the bevy of talented locals with three of their top targets all in-state recruits. Otherwise? Minnesota, thanks to the networking of assistant Kimani Young, is trolling the Northeast, hitting New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts hard.

Point guards/ versatile forwards – In 2017-18, starting point guard Nate Mason will be a senior. Even if freshman Amir Coffey has taken the reins by then, the Gophers will want someone developing in the shadows to back up Coffey and possibly be the floor general in the not-too-distant future. Another position the Gophers are hitting hard with this class is the versatile forward type, looking for players that can defend, stretch to play several positions and score inside and out. With those two focuses taking shape, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Minnesota end up with one of each once the signing period rolls around this fall.

Here’s a look at the Gophers’ main targets this summer:

TOP TIER:

The locals:

McKinley Wright – The 6-foot tough driving guard from Champlin Park has visited Minnesota campus unofficially and the intrigue and excitement appears to go both ways. Other offers include Iowa State, Nebraska, Illinois, Kansas State, Xavier and Texas Tech.

Theo John – At 6-9 with a soft touch inside and out, Champlin Park’s John is the remaining prize of the class, ranked 129th by Rivals and 80th by Scout. John has offers from the likes of Michigan State, Maryland and Florida, among many others, but the Gophers have been on him hard from the start.

Jericho Sims – I think the Gophers want to see Sims, an athletic, 6-8 big man from Minneapolis, develop a bit more, but they’ve seen enough to be very high on him nonetheless. Expect his recruit to either ramp up or wither this summer.

The others:

Isaiah Washington --The 6-1 Bronx point guard took an official visit to Minnesota last month and the Gophers are certainly a player as his offers pile up. Washington’s strengths are in getting to the basket and reading the floor.

Wabissa Bede -- The 5-11 Massachusetts point guard can create shots for others and himself, and has develops a consistent jumper. The undersized guard has the tools but would need to put on some serious pounds to compete in the Big Ten. Bede has several offers, but the Gophers are his only power-conference suitor.

Jamir Harris --The Gophers keyed into the 6-2 shooting guard from New Jersey last fall; now others are starting to notice the rising target and his bigtime shooting potential.

SECOND TIER:

Terrance Lewis --The Milwaukee 6-6 forward can drive and play inside. Other offers include Iowa State, Marquette and Wisconsin.

Hasahn French -- Size and physicality are the major draws with French, a 6-7, 230-pound big man who can bang around in the paint with the best of them. The Massachusetts forward grew early, but continues to evolve.

Keith Williams -- The 6-3 guard from Brooklyn might be one of the more underrated upper-tier recruits in his class, but the Gophers – along with Bowling Green, Dayton, Rutgers and Seton Hall – see potential in his craftiness and toughness at the basket.

OFF THE TABLE:

The Gophers have either cooled down on or missed out on the following players…

Goanar Mar

Sidney Wilson

Deng Gak

Najja Hunter

Abu Kigab

Darius Perry

Mario Haskett (committed to Harvard)

Brad Davidson (committed to Wisconsin)

Nate Reuvers (committed to Wisconsin)

Gophers among finalists for Champlin Park big man Theo John

The Gophers are still in the mix for one of their top basketball targets Champlin Park-native Theo John named the University of Minnesota as one of his finalists on Tuesday as he looked ahead to where he’ll play after graduating next spring.

The 2017 big man tweeted a montage of him playing and six logos – those of Minnesota, California, Marquette, Oklahoma, Illinois and Purdue – while noting “the process is slowly coming to an end.”

The 6-8, 200-pound John plays best with his back to the basket and has developed a nice touch around the rim, but could fit in as a power forward as well. The Gophers have had their sights on John since shortly after coach Richard Pitino took the job in 2013.

Minnesota has two scholarships available for 2017, and no commitments yet. Besides his short list, John was also being recruited by Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Memphis, Nebraska and Texas Tech, among others.

John has not said when he’ll make his final decision.