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Gophers offer fifth local 2018 prospect in Orono PF Jarvis Thomas

Orono forward Jarvis Thomas became the fifth Minnesota prospect in the Class of 2018 to receive a scholarship from the Gophers on Wednesday after his unofficial visit.

“It just felt good to know it is an option,” said Thomas, who also has scholarship offers from Arizona State, Iowa State, Marquette, Oregon State, Pittsburgh, Texas A&M and Wake Forest.

Thomas, a springy 6-foot-8, 225-pound senior, said he’s not ready to make a decision anytime soon.

But Gophers fans probably hope he doesn’t wait long. He’s been dazzling fans in person and on social media with his highlight-reel dunks all spring and early summer for Howard Pulley’s AAU team.

Making the most of his first season in the Nike EYBL, the St. Paul native has been one of the fastest rising players in the country. With top 2018 point guard Tre Jones running the show, Thomas has flourished in the open court – turning Howard Pulley’s fast breaks into dunk city.

But dunking isn’t all he can do. Thomas is an aggressive offensive rebounder and intimidating shot blocker.  Having background as a football player makes him unafraid to be physical and play through contact.

Thomas said Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said Wednesday he liked “my toughness and my ability to run the floor and be versatile – and how I can basically guard (five positions).”

Pitino compared Thomas to current Gophers starting power forward Jordan Murphy, a 6-7 dunking and rebounding machine. Murphy earned All-Big Ten honors last season as a sophomore.

If Thomas is like Murphy, then Gophers 2018 commit Daniel Oturu is like current Gophers center Reggie Lynch. Thomas and Oturu play together in the frontcourt for Howard Pulley.

“Daniel is a good kid; he’s a fun guy,” Thomas said. “Me and him play really well together I think, if not one of the best combinations for a frontcourt in the EYBL.”

In the 2018 class, Pitino also offered scholarships to locals Tre Jones of Apple Valley, Race Thompson of Armstrong and Gabe Kalscheur of DeLaSalle. Oturu, a 6-10 center from Cretin-Derham Hall, is the only Gopher commitment so far. Kaslcheur made an unofficial visit Monday to the U with no decision yet.

Pitino, who landed two Minnesotans with Amir Coffey and Michael Hurt in 2016, struck out after offering six in-state players in the 2017 class. But the Gophers big turnaround last season to reach the NCAA tournament and new facilities could attract more local recruits this year.

Thomas has been training with ex-Gopher Jonathan Williams since he was in the seventh grade when he couldn't dunk at 6-3. He's now the most athletic high school player in Minnesota. 

DeLaSalle star Kalscheur visits U, but says he isn't close to decision

Getting up at 6 a.m. for summer workouts is nothing new for Gabe Kalscheur.

The 6-foot-4 senior guard from DeLaSalle was used to grinding while training in the offseason with his old coach Dave Thorson, who left to become a Drake assistant. Kalscheur is working hard for his new Islanders coach Travis Bledsoe who expects him to be their leader this year. 

“He says this is my team,” Kalscheur said. “He said I need to be the leader on and off the court.”

At the same time, Kalscheur’s recruiting profile is expanding as well.

He recently earned four-star status with Scout.com’s updated Class of 2018 rankings, which included local prospects such as Apple Valley’s Tre Jones, Armstrong’s Race Thompson and Cretin-Derham Hall’s Daniel Oturu, a Gophers commit.

Kalscheur, who is averaging 17.7 points on 44 percent three-point shooting for Howard Pulley in the Nike EYBL this year, took an unofficial visit to Minnesota’s campus on Monday to check out the new facilities. In a Q&A with the Star Tribune, Kalscheur said he enjoyed the visit, but he’s not ready to make a decision anytime soon.

Q: How did Minnesota’s new facility look when you took an unofficial visit Monday?

A: It was really cool. Pretty sure there was like five levels. The gym where the team will practice in was really huge, it’s really big. It’s cool that they’ll have nutrition (center) that will have food for the athletes. They had an indoor ball rack built into the walls. There’s a really nice view in the gym looking out to the (city).

Q: How big is it to see Richard Pitino’s program making huge strides on the court and in upgrading facilities?

A: It’s really big. It’s cool how they’re getting up to date on their new facilities. DeLaSalle doesn’t have the fanciest locker rooms or weight rooms, so we get by with what we have. But what Minnesota is building right now is something special.

Q: There was speculation that you might make a decision soon. What’s your timetable?

A: I’m going to wait until after the Peach Jam (July 12-16) and the tournament in Vegas (Vegas Classic July 26-30) and see if I get some other offers or if I don’t. Then, I’ll some time plan some official visits maybe in August and September. Hopefully, I can make my decision before the season starts.

Q: Is there a chance you could commit before taking official visits?

A: That’s not really in my thought process right now. I’m not sure about that.

Q: Are you surprised more high-major scholarship offers haven’t come after such a great start to the AAU season (Kalscheur’s best offers are from Minnesota and Pittsburgh)?

A: A little bit. I feel like I’m slept on a little bit, but that’s my motivation to keep playing how I play and keep (working hard) when I get out there.

Q: Have you surprised yourself at all how well you played in the EYBL?

A: I’ve always believed I can be at this point right now. It was just a matter of time after developing and (Pulley coach Antwan Harris) putting me in the right place to do well. Coach has put me in the right spots and I’ve been able to produce at a high level.

Q: What areas of your game improved the most?
A: I think my defense big time and also running the fast break. I’m around 200 (pounds). I’ve been in the weight room a lot, eating good and eating great. My body feels a lot better on the court.

Q: What’s been the most memorable game for you this AAU season?

A: I would say the Oakland Soldiers game when I was on fire and I was feeling it (scored 32 points while hitting 7-for-8 three-pointers). That was a big game for me because it was in front of a lot of coaches, too. Also when we beat Cal Supreme, I feel like we all played together in that game offensively and defensively. That was a big game also.

Q: Were there any individual matchups that you got up for the most so far?
A: After the EYBL season last year, I feel like I was ready for anything and I don’t think I was intimidated by anyone. But when we played Wisconsin Playground and (Class of 2018 four-star guard and Wisconsin commit) Tyler Herro, I got to guard him and play some good defense on him. That was a big game for me.

Q: What do you think you’ll get out of playing in the Twin Cities Pro Am for the second year?

A: Playing with that high level of talent makes you play a lot better. Playing with players from overseas can help me learning the game a lot more. They know the game very well. Also, I might to get to play guys who I will be playing with or against in college. That just makes me better on and off the court. I’m pretty sure a lot of the Gophers will be playing in that. So I’ll meet a lot of them.

Q: Howard Pulley was the first EYBL team to qualify for the Peach Jam championship. You guys are 28-3 this year. What makes this year’s Pulley team so special?

A: How I feel like Golden State won a championship is because they had all the points covered on their team. I feel like we have all the points covered on the team with Tre at the point, myself shooting the ball, Daniel and Jarvis (Thomas) in the post. We have all of the pieces to the puzzle.

Q: How much do you think Oturu has improved from last summer?
A: I think he has a chip on his shoulder to be one of the most dominant big men in the EYBL. Playing at the high level he’s playing at now, he will have a lot of momentum going into the Peach Jam. He does try to keep convincing me to come to the Gophers (Kalscheur laughs).