Gophers fans will be watching intently when four-star Indianapolis Tindley guard Eric Hunter Jr. finishes up with his first official visit this weekend at Purdue.
After all, Hunter is Minnesota coach Richard Pitino’s top remaining 2018 target and potentially the last piece to what could be his best recruiting class yet.
The 6-foot-3, 170-pound Hunter finished the summer AAU period strong with Team Harris. One of the top playmakers in the Midwest, Hunter’s athleticism and ability to play both guard spots makes him a perfect fit for Pitino’s system. And there will a need for another ball handler and perimeter scorer after senior captain Nate Mason is gone following this season.
Indy Star photo
Hunter’s official visit with the Gophers isn’t until Sept. 27-29. After Purdue, the next trip will be to Xavier next weekend and Ohio State Sept. 20-22.
The Boilermakers, who only have one player committed in the 2018 class, were Big Ten champions last season and are close to home for Hunter in West Lafayette, Ind. They’ve made him their No. 1 priority, like Minnesota. Should there be any reason to worry about a weekend commitment from Hunter?
Anything can happen.
But Team Harris coach Omar Dillard said that he would be surprised if Hunter made a decision on a school before taking other visits beyond this week.
“I really believe Eric is going take all of his visits and make a decision, personally,” Dillard told the Star Tribune on Thursday. “I think he’ll make a decision after he’s got a chance to weigh all of the visits out, write everything down and (talk with his family).”
The Gophers might be the last scheduled official visit, but Hunter’s unofficial trip to see the Gophers went well in June.
“I would say he likes Minnesota a whole lot,” Dillard said. “I think he’s very impressed with what he saw when he’s been up there earlier this summer on an unofficial visit. I’m sure he’s looking forward to going back for the official visit. He’s impressed with Coach Pitino and his staff and the facilities they’re building that will be done.”
Pitino and his assistant Ben Johnson have talked to Hunter and his father about what type of player they envision him being with the Gophers.
As a junior in 2016-17, Hunter was a big-time scorer averaging 25.3 points per game in leading Tindley to Indiana’s Class A state title. But he also was an all-around player averaging 7.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists.
“(The Gophers) really believe now more than ever that he can play the point,” Dillard said. “Even though he scores the ball naturally, I think they also see him as a point guard. I know they’ve got some talented guys coming in this year and more of a pure point guard (freshman Isaiah Washington). But Eric can move over (to shooting guard) some as needed to help them in that area as well.”
After landing three of the top seniors in the state with Daniel Oturu, Jarvis Thomas and Gabe Kalscheur, the Gophers are looking outside of Minnesota for their final commitment.
Creighton beat out Minnesota for three-star Tilton School (Mass.) point guard Marcus Zegarowski, but he never took an official visit. South Kent School (N.Y.) point guard Anthony Nelson is still considering an official visit to the Twin Cities. But Hunter has always appeared be the Gophers' main target to fill out the 2018 class, especially after Apple Valley star point guard Tre Jones committed to Duke last month.
-- Hunter won’t be the only Gophers target visiting Purdue this weekend. Hopkins 6-11 senior center Joe Hedstrom is making an unofficial trip to the Boilermakers, according to GophersIllustrated.com. Minnesota and Purdue have not offered Hedstrom a scholarship, but they both have shown interest this summer.