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Champlin Park's Wright to make official visit with Gophers on Thursday

McKinley Wright knows the Gophers as well as any recruiting target in the 2017 class, so his official visit this week will be less about getting familiar with the program and more about what his role would be.

Wright, a 6-foot senior point guard from Champlin Park, said he's excited about the visit, which starts with attending Thursday's Minnesota football game against Oregon State with the basketball team.

"I pretty much have seen and know how everything would go if I were to play for Minnesota," he said. "But I just want to know a little more how I fit in the system and how everything will work out with Nate Mason being a senior if I were to come in as a freshman. I'm not really worried about everything that would go on in the visit. I'm just looking forward to having a good time."

Over the spring and summer, Wright dropped by campus on unofficial visits to hang out with Gophers players numerous times. It's pretty clear how strong his relationship is with the team. Current freshmen Amir Coffey and Eric Curry even went to watch Wright play in a summer tournament at Hopkins.

After losing Cristo Rey big man Jericho Sims to Texas on Monday, Gophers coach Richard Pitino could make a statement by landing Wright, who also has official visits scheduled to Dayton, Memphis and Xavier.

Wright was a bit discouraged to see Sims, his D1 Minnesota AAU teammate, commit before him. Now there won't be a possibility they could play together in college. The only school to offer them both scholarships that they were strongly considering was Minnesota. 

"It would've been nice to play somewhere with Jericho, but you've got to do what's best for you individually," said Wright, who talked to Sims on Tuesday about the decision. "I also think that was a very good situation for him. So you can't be mad at him. I'm excited for him."

Wright's high school teammate, Theo John is scheduled to visit Marquette this weekend. John, a 6-9 center/forward, is the best frontcourt option for the Gophers in the 2017 class with Sims off the board. 

Best case scenario for Pitino would be to get a commitment from Wright soon, and then see if he can convince John to join him to help turn Minnesota basketball into a contender in the Big Ten.

Also attending Thursday's Gophers football game with the basketball team will be Armstrong junior Race Thompson, Minnehaha Academy freshman Jalen Suggs and Rochester John Marshall sophomore Matthew Hurt, who was just invited to USA basketball's junior men's national team minicamp Oct. 7-10 in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Pitino at the fair: Possible starters and Coffey talk

With fans mostly talking about how frustrating Gophers basketball was to watch last season, Richard Pitino and his players are anxious to get on the court to show them how much better they are this year.

But until then, all Pitino can do is talk about the team's potential, which he did at the Minnesota State Fair on Tuesday.

"It’s so hard sitting on a tough season," Pitino said on WCCO-830. "It’s very difficult to sit for five or six months. So we’re all excited to get back to work. ...I’m fully confident that it’ll be our best team next year. Again, knock on wood that we stay healthy. We got to get better. And we’re going to do it. We don’t have all the answers. We’re always willing to tinker with something if it’s not working. But also trust in what we’re doing and have full confidence that we’re going to be very good this year."

Pitino said he potentially could have a lineup this season that includes junior guard Nate Mason, freshman guard Amir Coffey, senior transfer guard Akeem Springs (joined the team this week) and sophomore forward Jordan Murphy.

He didn't mention a center. That position was in flux this summer. It likely will be Illinois State transfer and Edina native Reggie Lynch, who is still suspended pending a university investigation on his arrest for suspicision of assault in the spring. Lynch was not charged in the case by the U police, so the Gophers expect him to be able to play this year.

"Nothing new," Pitino said about Lynch. "We're just sitting and waiting. I don't know other than that."

The most impactful newcomer could be Coffey, a high-profile recruit from Hopkins. Pitino said Tuesday he expects last year's Minnesota Mr. Basketball to play a lot as a freshman.

"From what I’ve seen from him, he’s all that I thought he’d be and more," Pitino said. "He’s a phenomenal passer. He’s got great size. He’s all of 6-7. He’s better defensively than I thought he would be. We haven’t had a lot of screening actions and all those things. We’ll see on that. I’m extremely excited about him. I think he’s going to have a chance to play at the next level. He’s got the size and skill to do that. I think he’s going to make an impact right away."

Fellow freshman Michael Hurt, who could make an impact as a three-point shooting threat, looks forward to the Gophers showing fans how much they've improved from last season.

"(Coffey, freshman Eric Curry) and I kind of had the same goal when we came here," Hurt said at the state fair. "We see a lot of really good players and an opportunity to really change the perspective people have on our team. I think we're going to have a really great year."

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