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Four-star basketball recruit Hunter cancels Gophers visit

Four-star Tindley High School (Ind.) guard Eric Hunter Jr., who was one of Minnesota’s top remaining targets, cancelled his upcoming visit with the Gophers this weekend and committed to Purdue on Monday.

Hunter tweeted a video of his commitment to the Boilermakers on Monday night. His decision to not make his scheduled official trip to Minnesota was first reported by GopherIllustrated.com earlier in the afternoon.

Indy Star Photo

Indy Star Photo

The 6-foot-3 Indianapolis combo guard had already taken official visits to Purdue and Ohio State. They were reportedly his top two schools, but the Buckeyes landed two 2018 guards last week. Recruiting projections already had Hunter picking Purdue.

The Gophers’ two main targets remaining for their last scholarship are four-star Oak Hill Academy (Va.) wing Keyontae Johnson and three-star South Kent School (N.Y.) point guard Anthony Nelson. But neither player has scheduled an official visit with Minnesota yet.

The 6-5 Johnson, who has a 41-inch vertical, officially visited Wichita State on Sept. 15 and is expected to make a trip to Georgia Tech on Oct. 6. Nelson visited Dayton last week and will reportedly make official trips to Seton Hall this weekend and Clemson on Oct. 6.

There's speculation that point guards being recruited in 2018, including Hunter were worried about playing time with current freshman Isaiah Washington likely to be Gophers floor leader for years to come. Washington tweeted a photo of himself, senior guard Nate Mason and junior guard Jarvis Johnson. Mason will be gone next season. Johnson is still not medically cleared to play because of a heart condition (and is not likely to in his career as of now). 

So the Gophers are still looking to add more ball-handling depth either in the 2018 or 2019 classes to join Washington and fellow freshman Jamir Harris. 

Regardless of what happens next with Richard Pitino’s 2018 recruiting, the three-member class of Cretin-Derham Hall center Daniel Oturu, DeLaSalle shooting guard Gabe Kalscheur and Orono forward Jarvis Thomas is already the highest ranked under Pitino. It’s also the most Minnesotans in one Gophers recruiting class since 2009.

247Sports.com's ranks the U’s class No. 12 in the nation and No. 6 in the Big Ten.  Previously, the Gophers’ best class under Pitino was 33rd nationally when Amir Coffey, Eric Curry and Michael Hurt signed in 2016.

Richard Pitino says he'd like to play his father again, just not in NCAAs

Richard Pitino sat anxiously at a U.S. Bank Stadium club room on Selection Sunday this March knowing the Gophers would be picked, but he didn't want to possibly play Louisville in a second-round matchup as some predicted.

"I hope they wouldn't do that," Pitino said then.

Louisville got announced first going to Indianapolis as a No. 2 seed. No mention of Minnesota until the No. 5 seed in Milwaukee. Sigh of relief for the Pitinos. They avoided that awkward feeling like in 2014 when no matter what, father or son had to lose. 

Standing in the U.S. coast guard hangar in Puerto Rico three years ago, Rick Pitino looked uneasy after his Louisville men’s basketball team’s 81-68 opening win in the Armed Forces Classic on national TV.

The Cardinals played like a top-10 team should against a non-ranked opponent. They dominated physically, and basically ran away with a game that was no way as close as the final margin.

So why was Rick Pitino so uncomfortable? Well, you probably can guess why.

 “I really didn’t want to play this game,” he said afterward. “I hate the fact that we won. … So, for all the exposure, it was great until the end of the game. I'd rather have not played it because my son lost.”

Fast forward to this week, ESPN.com’s Myron Medcalf wrote about matchups college hoops needs right now, mentioning his wanting to see a Pitino vs. Pitino rematch like the rest of us. I tweeted it wouldn’t happen again, because they don’t want to play. Want evidence? How about the awkwardness when they were almost put in that position last season as the first father and son to make the same NCAAs.

But Richard Pitino’s responses to me on Twitter Wednesday make it seem like he's not dreading that Louisville game completely.

I've been told that Louisville and Minnesota have been trying to figure out when to play the past few years, but schedules haven't aligned. Could we have some help Basketball Gods?! 

How perfect would it be for the Gophers to meet the Cardinals at U.S. Bank Stadium next November as that still-unannounced warmup game for the 2019 Final Four in Minneapolis? If father and son still want to play each other, then why not in a 60,000-seat stadium?