A week ago, there was a good chance Champlin Park’s dynamic basketball duo — Theo John and McKinley Wright — were going to be future Gophers teammates.
But Tuesday night at a commitment ceremony at their high school gym, John and Wright both decided to play elsewhere, picking Marquette and Dayton, respectively.
“Me and McKinley, we’ve dreamed of going to the same college,” John said. “A lot of people thought we were both going to be going to the University of Minnesota. But we had a discussion. We were like, ‘Listen, we got to do what’s best for us.’ Put each other in the best situation, because we don’t want to hold each other back. It may be a good decision for me but may not be for him. So we wanted each other to spread our wings.”
Wright’s decision was expected, after Minnesota received a commitment from four-star New York point guard Isaiah Washington on Sunday.
“We kind of parted ways this past week,” Wright said about the Gophers. “They got a commitment from a very good point guard Isaiah Washington. Congratulations to them on their end. Congratulations to him and their whole organization. But I feel like Dayton is the best spot for me. They talked about me and Isaiah playing together in the backcourt at Minnesota. But I just feel like Dayton is the best spot for me. Me and Theo had dreamed of playing together, but everything didn’t work out how we wanted it to.”
John enjoyed his official visit with the Gophers, alongside Washington, over the weekend. He said he didn’t make up his mind until Monday night and told Minnesota’s staff he appreciated their efforts to recruit him.
The 6-9 center was the Gophers’ top frontcourt target in the 2017 class, and Minnesota was the first major conference program to offer John. But he felt like the Golden Eagles were a better fit.
“The Gophers are a great organization,” John said. “[Gophers coach Richard] Pitino is really turning the program around. I have a lot of respect for what he and his staff are doing. They’re going to be successful in the next few years. I just felt like Marquette was the better decision for me both academically and basketball-wise.”
Wright and John were the last two uncommitted in-state players in the 2017 class who were targeted by Pitino, who ends up going 0-for-6 on Minnesota seniors to whom he offered scholarships after getting both Amir Coffey and Michael Hurt last year.
Former Apple Valley guard Gary Trent Jr., who transferred to Prolific Prep Academy in Napa, Calif., hasn’t decided on a college, but he doesn’t have Minnesota among his final five schools. Lakeville North’s Nate Reuvers and Maple Grove’s Brad Davison both committed to Wisconsin. Cristo Rey Jesuit’s Jericho Sims pledging to Texas over the Gophers might have been the biggest blow before John’s decision Tuesday.
Pitino did make a statement nationally by landing Washington, who is a consensus top-70 player in the class and one of the top point guards in the country. He has one more scholarship left to fill in 2017, most likely looking to add a frontcourt player.
Three-star power forward Hasahn French of Commonwealth Academy in Springfield, Mass., is scheduled to visit Minnesota on Sept. 23. The 6-7, 225-pound French made an official trip to Marquette last weekend, but John might have taken his potential spot with the Golden Eagles.
“I hate to call it panic mode, because you need to see how they fill out the class,” Rivals.com recruiting analyst Eric Bossi said. “We need to see how they close out the class before you make any determination on all of this. They got Isaiah Washington, who is better than any point guard obviously they had in the state. So I wouldn’t consider that a loss.”