The 2022 class is what everyone is talking about in Minnesota with the AAU season greenlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic this July.
Richard Pitino and his Gophers staff, like their college basketball coaching peers across the country, can't recruit on the road with the NCAA extending the dead period until September 1.
That will only have the Gophers and other high major programs calling, texting and watching livestreams this summer to keep track of the state's top local juniors as much as possible.
Wayzata's Camden Heide, Cretin-Derham Hall's Tre Holloman, Hopkins' Elvis Nnaji and Minnehaha Academy's Prince Aligbe and Chase Carter are five players with Gophers offers in the 2022 class.
"It's obviously big time to have an offer from the home state," Heide said. "I've grown up here my whole life. I got to go to a lot of Gophers games when I was a kid."
The 6-foot-6 Heide is the state's top-ranked junior and No. 39 in 247Sports.com's 2022 composite ranking. He is recovering from foot surgery and will be sidelined when his D1 Minnesota 17U team makes its summer debut Saturday in the Jammin' in July tournament in Ames, Iowa.
Aligbe, ranked No. 58 nationally, is still waiting for his Grassroots Sizzle's AAU team to play, which includes five-star senior Chet Holmgren. Holloman, also a top-100 junior, will get on the court with Howard Pulley in Ames this weekend. The Minnesota Heat, Minnesota Select and Minnesota Rise are also in that 17U showcase in Iowa.
Despite being sidelined, Heide was bombarded by calls from coaches last month when they were allowed to contact 2022 prospects for the first time. He picked up new offers from Arizona, Marquette, Texas, Virginia Tech, Xavier, and Creighton already this summer. Purdue was the first Big Ten offer last year. Minnesota came shortly after and has been heavily involved.
"I have a great relationship with the coaching staff," Heide said of Pitino and his assistant coaches.
Heide's D1 Minnesota teammates Tamin Lipsey from Ames and Eli King from Caledonia are one of the most talented AAU backcourts in the Midwest. They've both seen their recruitment pick up since coaches could reach out to them this summer. Lipsey was offered by the Gophers last month. King, who was offered by Iowa, spoke to the home state program on a zoom call.
"I think I can start building a really good relationship with them," Lipsey said of the Gophers. "I had quite a few schools reach out when they could on the first day [June 15]. My phone was blowing up. It was kind of surreal, but it felt good. I had a lot of Midwest schools, the Big East and Pac-12. I have a good variety of schools around the country with interest in me."
Former Gophers center Jonathan Williams coaches the D1 Minnesota's 16s team with three 2022 prospects on the Gophers' radar. Hopkins forward Elvis Nnaji, the cousin of former Arizona standout Zeke Nnaji, has an offer from the Gophers. Enderlin (N.D.) center Joe Hurlburt has offers from Colorado and Iowa. East Ridge guard Kendall Blue nabbed a Marquette offer this summer.
"It definitely feels good to get back on the court with my teammates after waiting this whole summer," Nnaji said. "I've been working with my cousin and uncle as well. Being able to let all the skills I've learned for the past couple months out on the court will be good."
Top 10 players in Minnesota's Class of 2022
- Camden Heide 6-6 Wayzata*
- Prince Aligbe 6-7 Minnehaha Academy*
- Tre Holloman 6-1 Cretin-Derham Hall*
- Elvis Nnaji 6-9 Hopkins*
- Eli King 6-2 Caledonia
- Kendall Blue 6-5 East Ridge
- Willie Wilson 6-4 Minneapolis North
- Chase Carter 6-6 Minnehaha Academy*
- Joshua Ola-Joseph 6-5 Osseo
- Malcolm Jones 6-8 Prior Lake