If no more players were added to the Gophers’ 2018 recruiting class that likely would still give Richard Pitino his best class ever, especially after landing three top in-state prospects.
But Pitino isn’t finished yet.
Getting a commitment from locals Daniel Oturu, Jarvis Thomas and Gabe Kalscheur brought instant excitement to University of Minnesota fans. What comes next in the U’s recruiting could add to the momentum building this offseason for the program.
The possibility of five-star Apple Valley point guard Tre Jones joining his Howard Pulley AAU teammates in maroon and gold seems unlikely. Duke’s prestige, family connection with Jones’ brother, Tyus, is strong. He'll make an announcement Sunday (Updated).
Even if they don't get Jones, the Gophers are heavily targeting several backcourt options, most notably Tindley School (Ind.) four-star senior Eric Hunter Jr. and Tilton School (Mass.) three-star senior Marcus Zegarowski, who recently cut his list to four schools.
Zegarowski, a 6-foot-2 floor general, narrowed his decision down to Creighton, Minnesota, Ohio State and Washington, according to his Tweet on Monday. He averaged 14.8 points, 3.6 assists, 1.1 steals and shot 43 percent from three-point range for Expressions Elite in the Nike EYBL this year.
The younger brother of NBA guard Michael Carter-Williams told Rivals.com Tuesday that he wanted to make his announcement on a final school in early September. So far, Zegarowski hasn’t visited Minnesota, but he remains high on the program.
“They are coming up right now, and Pitino is a really good coach,” he told Scout.com’s Brian Snow on Wednesday. “Also (assistant coach) Kimani Young knows my dad really well, and they were the first high-major program to offer me.”
Hunter was followed as closely by Pitino and his staff as any other recruiting target during the July evaluation period. The 6-3 Indianapolis product averaged 20 points on 58 percent shooting from the field and 61 percent from three-point range in the Adidas Championship last month.
He tweeted in June his top six schools were Butler, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue and Xavier. It’s unclear where Hunter will make his official visits, but he already made an unofficial trip to see the Gophers in mid-June.
Capping his stellar play this summer in Las Vegas, Hunter got specific about what his future role could be with Minnesota when talking to GopherIllustrated.com.
“The Gopher coaches feel like I am the last piece that they need,” Hunter told GI’s Ryan James in July. “They are looking for another combo guard to come in after Nate Mason graduates next year.”
Other than going after a combo guard, Pitino offered Chicago Simeon wing Talen Horton-Tucker recently, but he also has offers from Kansas and Michigan State.
The Gophers showed interest in 6-11 Hopkins center Joe Hedstrom throughout the summer, but he received an offer from Wisconsin to pay for his first year in college as a walk-on and be on scholarship the rest of his career. Hedstrom would be a redshirt candidate with the Badgers and Gophers, but he still hasn’t been offered by the home state program.
I can't remember the last time, if ever, the Gophers signed a four-member class with only homegrown talent. But whether that happens or not, Pitino's 2018 recruiting should be over soon -- and it appears to be adding another solid piece.