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Hopkins guard Kerwin Walton sees interest soar after big AAU weekend

Hopkins guard Kerwin Walton wants to be known for being more than just a shooter, but his deadly stroke was all coaches were talking about after his 10 three-pointers in a game during the start of the July evaluation period last week.

The 6-foot-5 Hopkins senior scored 30 points on 10-for-13 shooting from beyond the arc in D1 Minnesota's victory over Team Loaded (N.C.) at the Adidas Summer Championships in Birmingham, Ala. 

Walton, who is one of seven Class of 2020 standouts with scholarship offers from the Gophers, combined to hit 15 threes in two games Saturday alone. D1 Minnesota was without five-star Prior Lake senior forward Dawson Garcia, who was out with an illness.

Walton led the way with 14.9 points per game on 25-for-54 shooting from long range in seven games Thursday through Sunday in Alabama. 

Previously, Walton was hearing mostly from Denver, South Dakota, Creighton and Minnesota. After the last Adidas circuit, he picked up new scholarship offers from Cincinnati, Iowa, Iowa State, Miami and Virginia Tech. 

The biggest offers yet came from Arizona and Kansas on Monday and Tuesday, respectively.

Don't expect Walton's offers from high majors to slow down anytime soon after last weekend's shooting display. That's more competition for the Gophers to keep him home. Last week, Walton talked to the Star Tribune about Minnesota and recruiting, how he improved this summer and more.

Q: Do you have any schools in mind for official visits?

A: It’s really tough to schedule visits right now. I think I’m in a good spot, but I just want to have all the options and possible opportunities I can get. I have a few schools who are still looking at me and want to see me play one last time before they consider me with their offers. I just want to play (in July), and hopefully teams like what they see and start recruiting me harder.

Q: How did it feel to be offered by the Gophers last fall? Where do you stand with them?

A: It felt great to get an offer from them. They’re another big-time school. I know a lot of the guys who went there (sophomores Daniel Oturu and Gabe Kalscheur). I’m pretty cool with them. I have a pretty good relationship with the coaching staff. They seem to really like me. I can see myself there, honestly. I believe I would fit in there. I feel like I could come in there and be used properly being able to play with Gabe, Daniel and other guys. I feel like Gabe and I would be good backcourt.

Q: Was it encouraging to see the Gophers reach the NCAA tournament last season? 

A: It does encourage me a little bit about the program. Because if they can be successful I feel like the coaching staff could make that happen for me. I feel like I could reach that same level by developing myself or go even farther.

Q: Have you thought about when you would like to make a decision? 

A: Not too much really. I’m just trying to look for the best fit for me. Where could I go in and possibly play right away, develop and be the best player I can be.

Q: How would you describe your development from last summer?

A: I think I improved a lot last year on the defensive end. People started to see it more and acknowledge it more. Knocking down shots on the other end and scoring anyway possible . Playing with guys like Zeke and Dawson helps to get me better and prepare me for the next level.

Q: How tough will it be this season at Hopkins playing without Zeke Nnaji (Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year), who is now at Arizona? 

A: I thought we were the perfect 1-2 punch. I thought he was the best post player in Minnesota. Unless there was a double team coming he was going to score, especially when we were coming off the pick and roll. I could get it out to him for a shot or when Zeke was double teamed he could kick it out to me for a shot. He set good screens so I could come off looking to score. For us it was like a pick your poison type deal. I don’t feel too much pressure (without him), but I’m definitely going to have to carry a heavier load this year. There are a bunch of new guys who are inexperienced but still have talent. I don’t really feel pressure about it, but I feel more confident about myself and teammates.

Q: How much have you grown physically in the last year? 

A: I think I’ve gotten bigger physically, but I’m not where I should be to play at the highest level. I’m always trying to see where my ceiling is. I’m trying to be the best version of myself. I’m doing a lot of lifting and different things. I just want to see how much I can grow.

Q: Do you think you proved this summer you're more than just a shooter?

A: I feel like I shoot at such a high level most people would just label me as a shooter, but I can do pretty much a lot of different things. I can handle the ball, I think I can pass and defend. Defending is one of my biggest passions next to shooting. If I can play on both ends of the floor, offense and defense, being able to guard somebody and stay in front of them and be able to knock down shots I think I can play at a high level wherever I play.

Recruiting picks up for Rochester's Gabe Madsen, but what about his twin?

When the summer started, Rochester Mayo senior guard Gabe Madsen was not on the Gophers radar much at all, but that all changed after Minnesota’s team camp in June.

Madsen impressed Richard Pitino enough to earn a scholarship offer on the spot. And once the July evaluation period started last week, Pitino and his assistants made sure to be visible at Madsen’s games with the Wisconsin Playground Club.

UAA photo

The 6-foot-6 Madsen averaged 10.4 points and shot 15-for-40 from three-point range in the seven games in the Under Armour Association Finals in Atlanta.

His most impressive performance came with 15 points on 4-for-8 shooting from beyond the arc (three in a row at one point) in a win vs. D.C. Premiere to help his AAU team advance to Sunday’s UAA semifinals.

Madsen’s size, deep range and ability to score off the dribble on pull up jumpers from anywhere on the court got the attention of many coaches last weekend. He picked up new offers from Xavier, Iowa State and Cincinnati. Those schools join a list that included Minnesota, Iowa, Marquette and Virginia Tech.

What’s different about Madsen’s recruitment from many players is that he has a twin brother, Mason, that’s been his teammate and point guard since the beginning. The Gophers and others have shown more interest in Mason Madsen recently, but will a high-major program offer them both?

Last week, Gabe Madsen talked to the Star Tribune about the Gophers, his boost in confidence this year and thoughts on possibly playing with his twin brother in college.

Q: What are you telling schools during the recruiting process about playing with your twin brother?

A: I’ve kind told everyone the same thing. We’re going to do the best for ourselves. If it so happens there’s a situation where we can play together we will go with that. That would be awesome. But we have to do what’s best for ourselves. I don’t understand why some schools aren’t offering him. We’re always in the gym together and our 1-on-1 games are competitive all the time. We’re just different players. I’m just a little bit bigger. There are less people who are 6-6 who score the ball. He’s 6-3 and there’s more people playing point guard, but I guess that’s it.

Q: Does getting offered by the Gophers mean something different since you’re a Wisconsin native (moved from Bloomer to Rochester in 2017)?

A: I know I’m not from here, but when you get that home state offer there are some people who go ‘Wow.’ If you get an offer from some other schools they don’t know about it’s not the same. That’s because everybody knows about the hometown school. Obviously, it’s cool because it’s your home state (now) and not many people in the home state get offers. It’s a cool thing. I like watching basketball, so I’ve always watched them (growing up).

Q: Where are you as far as deciding which schools to visit officially and making a decision?  

A: I’m just moving forward and taking it as it comes. I’m going to go through the summer and see what happens. I’m going to look at my schools and see which one fits me best. That’s the one I’ll go with. (Coach Pitino) just told me I fit his style of play well and the program. He told me they need someone in the 2020 class to get the committing started. He just wanted me to be that guy to kick it off. He just needed someone to play (his position). So that’s appealing, so we’ll see what happens. I hear from (the Gophers) once or twice a week. Not crazy but enough to see what’s happening. The Iowa State (assistant) coach texts me every day. That’s the most from any school (before he got the Cyclones offer). Texas just recently started to text me pretty consistently. Texas Tech got on it a few weeks ago texting me. They just said they would be watching me at the tournaments in July.  Virginia Tech just called me (two weeks ago).

Q: How encouraging is it to see other Minnesotans pick the Gophers? Discouraging to see locals not stay home, too?

A: You definitely look at who is playing there now. You obviously look at who stayed and who didn’t.  But just more so looking at who you would play with. I’ve talked to them at the camp.  

Q: How would you describe your game and what’s the ideal position at the next level?

A: I’d say I’m a combo guard. I’m comfortable handling the ball and going through pick-and-rolls. That’s the way the game is moving. Everyone is doing pick-and-rolls, so that’s what I’m working with. That’s something I’m comfortable with and I work on my handles. Obviously a lot of people like me because I can shoot it. I think I’m more than that. I can score at all levels. I think I’m a good passer and good rebounder as well. I’m just a do-it-all kind of guy. (Dunking) as I’ve grown into my body I’ve gotten more athletic. That’s something I pull out of my bag every once in a while.

Q: Would you be comfortable playing some point guard in college?

A: I’m definitely comfortable with that. It’s something I work hard at is to handle the ball. Something that sets me apart is that Mason and I do all the same things because we work out together. So, I do the same stuff as a Division I high-major point guard. We’re doing all the same stuff. People look at me as a two guard, but I’m doing the same workouts as a (point guard). I’m comfortable with that position.

Q: What’s different about your game from a year ago?

A: It just goes to show if you put the work in everything will take care of itself. I think having more chances to play the more the game slowed down and you kind of just pick up on other things. I’ve always been a good shooter, but I’m learning more about the game as I get older. I’m just seeing the game differently.

Q: How different is it playing high school ball in Minnesota but AAU ball in Wisconsin?

A: The fact that (at Wisconsin Playground) we’re all really good friends makes it easier. Sometimes it’s hard in AAU for that especially, but we’ve been playing together for three years. We’ve known each other longer than that. It shows on the court. If you like the guys you’re playing with it translates to how you play together. They have confidence in me, and I have confidence in them. It lets you play with a free mind, so that’s important.

It’s closer to Lacrosse, Wis. where we practice than it was from where we (used to live in) Wisconsin. So, it was a no brainer to stay with them. It’s only an hour drive to where we practice (from Rochester). Some guys drive two or three hours. When we were in Bloomer, Wis., it was two hours to Lacrosse, but now it’s only an hour.

Q: What is it like to play with another set of twins (Wisconsin recruits Jonathan and Jordan Davis)?

A: We’re really good friends. We’ve been playing with each other and against each other since the sixth grade. We’ve just grown really close to them playing with them the last three years. They’re basically going through the same exact process just because they’re twins. Going through the recruiting process having the same problems and experiences because of the unique situation that we have. We’ve been able to talk to them about that. We’re really proud of them going to Wisconsin. That’s pretty cool.

Q: You and your brother are being recruited by the Gophers. Do you think about a potential twin border battle rivalry?

A: It was definitely competitive when we used to play each other in high school. We’re definitely more supportive of them now that we’re (AAU) teammates. A little cross state twin matchup there (if we played for the Gophers) would be fun.