It’s a great weather weekend in the Twin Cities, so that also means the perfect opportunity to host recruits on campus for Gophers basketball coaches Richard Pitino and Lindsay Whalen.
Both Pitino and Whalen picked up commitments this week with the Gopher women landing New Berlin Eisenhower (Wis.) senior center Erin Hedman on Wednesday, and the Gopher men making a splash with four-star Sunrise Christian Academy (Kan.) forward Tray Jackson on Monday.
Breck senior forward David Roddy is on his official visit for Pitino's team Friday through Sunday. The first three players to commit to Whalen in the 2019 class were Stillwater guard Sara Scalia, Des Moines Roosevelt (Iowa) forward Grace Cumming and Des Moines East wing Justice Ross, who are all currently on their official visits on the U campus.
Cumming recalls the recruiting pitch Whalen made her after the Gopher legend was hired this spring.
“I remember one of the first things Coach Whalen said to me on the phone was ‘are you excited to be a Gopher?’” she said. “That just made me so happy and even more excited.”
Roddy, who visited Colorado State last week, has three of his former Howard Pulley AAU teammates already on the U roster in freshmen Daniel Oturu, Jarvis Omersa and Gabe Kalscheur. They’ve been trying to get him to commit.
“They don’t bug me every day,” Roddy said. “But every few days, they’ll say, ‘What’s up future teammate?’”
The powerfully built and explosive 6-foot-5, 250-pound Roddy could see himself playing with his buddies in maroon and gold, because “we had such great chemistry,” he said.
“We knew where everybody would be at the right time,” Roddy said. “It was just a really fun AAU season getting to learn from them and absorbing as much knowledge as I could; how to win games, how to lead a team. Just little things like supporting your teammates at all times and keep being positive. Playing with those players (also Duke freshman Tre Jones) led me to be the team leader I was this past summer.”
Arguably the best leader in Gopher history during her playing days, Whalen will try to pass on her toughness and passion for the game to her players as a first-year coach.
Scalia was able to stop by one of the Gopher practices when Whalen was still coaching and playing for the Minnesota Lynx.
“It’s really fun to watch the practices,” Scalia said. “It’s really cool to see her coaching. She knows the game really well. Her and her coaching staff are fun to watch. Players obviously loving playing for them. Her coaches run a lot of the stuff in practice. She can be pretty intense sometimes, but she’ll throw in a joke every once in awhile.”
Cumming and Ross grew up playing hoops on the same Iowa traveling teams, but one of their best memories was driving down to the Twin Cities to watch a Lynx game together in the seventh grade.
“We went up with my dad to a Lynx game and took a picture in front of the court,” Cumming said. “That’s pretty cool. Now we’ll be playing for one of the players we were watching back when we were middle schoolers. I’ve always loved her toughness and grit. When she’s out there you can just see the competitiveness. I’ve always thought that was the coolest thing ever.”