The Gophers officially added some size and athleticism to their frontcourt Wednesday with the signing of 6-10 Texas big man Sam Freeman.
Freeman, a senior at Northwest High School in Justin, Texas, inked his letter of intent in front of friends, family and fellow students at a school ceremony Wednesday, Day 1 of the spring signing period.
“It all feels like a dream coming to reality,” Freeman told the Star Tribune.
Freeman, who picked the Gophers over Virginia Tech earlier this month, averaged 13.5 points, 11 rebounds and 1.5 blocks for a 30-8 district 5A championship team. His high in rebounds in a game for Northwest this season was 28, while also posting a 22-point, 20-rebound, 10-block performance vs. Plano West.
“Playing in the Big Ten should be a fun experience,” the three-star recruit said. “I think (the Gophers have) got a really nice program. They can really help me become better and push me every day. I feel like I trust them. It feels like a family.”
A few weeks ago, Freeman concluded his official visit to Minnesota’s campus with his parents.
“The opportunity to earn playing time,” Freeman’s dad, Sam Sr., said when asked about big selling points. “The staff did a great job of recruiting him. The people in the community seem to support the program. Very nice city. The facilities were nice.”
Gophers assistant Kyle Lindsted had a previous relationship with Freeman’s mentor Mathis Crowder. That helped Minnesota keep early tabs on Freeman, who earned a scholarship offer after playing at the Gophers’ team camp with Crowder last summer.
Pitino wrote in a statement: “We identified his potential early in the recruiting process and feel like he’s going to be a terrific basketball player. Sam is a phenomenal rebounder and has the ability to score in a variety of ways.”
Crowder believes Pitino got a steal in Freeman, who has grown two inches and gained 20 pounds since last spring.
“He’s a rebounder and a defender,” said Crowder, the Creating Young Minds co-founder. “He’s basically a player they don’t make too much anymore. A rebounder, defender, hustle guy who will do all the dirty work. He’s basically what Michigan State has. He’s that kind of kid. He’s a loyal kid, hardworking kid and has no excuses. He just does it.”
All-Big Ten forward Jordan Murphy and 7-foot center Matz Stockman will graduate this year. The Gophers return Daniel Oturu, who’s also 6-10, Jarvis Omersa (6-6) and Eric Curry (6-9) in the frontcourt. Oturu, who was one of the top freshmen in the Big Ten this season, is expected to be backed up by Freeman at center.
Pitino has three scholarships left for the 2019 recruiting class, which also includes Wasatch Academy (Utah) four-star guard Tre’ Williams. If junior Amir Coffey stays committed to the NBA draft this summer, an additional scholarship slot will open.
Big Ten opponents for the Gophers men’s and women’s basketball teams were released Wednesday for the 2019-20 season.
The men’s team will face off twice against Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin. Its opponents showing up just once on the schedule will be Maryland, Michigan and Nebraska at Williams Arena, and Illinois, Purdue and Rutgers on the road.
The Gophers women will play Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin twice. Showing up just once on the league slate will be Maryland, Michigan, Northwestern and Rutgers at home, and Illinois, Michigan State, Penn State and Purdue on the road.