Richard Pitino appreciates when Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck attends basketball games at Williams Arena in the winter.
It’s a little different, though, when Pitino and his staff show up at TCF Bank Stadium in the fall.
Gophers basketball coaches aren’t just there to support Fleck’s football team. They’re trying to host recruits and show them passionate U fans enjoying warm and welcoming weather outdoors in Minnesota.
Having a great fan atmosphere at football games is pretty important for hoops recruiting.
“For basketball coaches these weekends are huge for recruiting,” Pitino said at the state fair. “That’s why everybody needs to understand when football games are packed it helps us all. I hope it’s a great crowd on Thursday … We’ve got to take advantage of as many weekends, because it does get cold. You can scare some people coming late October.”
The Gophers are hosting two official visitors Thursday with four-star 2021 point guard Frankie Collins from Arizona Compass Prep and three-star 2020 combo guard Ty Berry from Sunrise Christian Academy (Kan.).
Several in-state prospects are also expected to join the Gophers basketball team Thursday at TCF, including 2020 prospects Dawson Garcia from Prior Lake, Kerwin Walton from Hopkins, Steven Crowl from Eastview and Ben Carlson from East Ridge.
The next Gophers football game Pitino is planning to host recruits for official visits will be in two weeks. Rochester Mayo senior guard Gabe Madsen and Aspire Academy (K.Y.) center Gethro Muscadin are scheduled to visit the weekend of the Georgia Southern game on Sept. 13. Brewster Academy (M.H.) guard Jamal Mashburn Jr. is also scheduled to visit the weekend of the Oct. 5 homecoming game vs. Illinois.
Pitino will mostly be focused on the recruits visiting Thursday, but he hopes to see Fleck's football program take a step forward this season.
"What I really, really respect about him is he's got a plan and he's sticking to it," he said. "He's confident. He knows it's going to work. He believes in it. I don't know where they'll be this year, but ... I can see talent there."
Officials for local 2020 targets
Carlson recently narrowed his list to six schools, which includes the Gophers. But his official visits will be with Xavier this weekend, Wisconsin from Sept. 7-8, Purdue from Sept. 14-15 and Stanford from Sept. 27-28.
Crowl’s official visits include Wisconsin from Sept. 6-8, Colorado from Sept. 13-15 and Iowa from Sept. 28-29.
Madsen will visit Cincinnati this weekend, Marquette from Sept. 6-8 and Northwestern from Sept. 20-22.
Minnehaha Academy five-star guard Jalen Suggs, who already visited Gonzaga for an official, has mentioned Florida and Iowa State as possible visits, but he has nothing else scheduled yet. Suggs said at football practice last week he is expecting to make a decision on a school "sooner than later."
Walton and Garcia haven’t scheduled official visits, but Garcia will narrow down his list early next month.
Gophers sophomore guard Gabe Kalscheur said at the state fair this week he's making progress recovering from the ankle injury that caused him to miss the final game in Italy earlier this month.
"I've been rehabbing," Kalscheur said. "(Italy) was fun and a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
The Gophers are looking forward to having junior big man Eric Curry healthy and recovered from foot surgery when the team resumes practice once school starts next month. The target date for him to be fully cleared for contact is around the middle of September, Pitino said.