To say this has been a productive spring and summer for Ben Carlson would be an understatement.
The four-star East Ridge 2020 power forward won a summer state tournament title with the Raptors in June and followed that up with his D1 Minnesota AAU squad taking home the Adidas Gauntlet Finale 16U crown last weekend in New York.
“That was the best we’ve played this entire year,” Carlson said. “We shared the ball and our defense was really, really good. We held two teams under 40 points, which really doesn’t happen a lot in AAU. We had a really good weekend.”
Carlson’s D1 Minnesota 16s team, includes Prior Lake 2020 forward and fellow Gophers target Dawson Garcia. They defeated Indiana Elite 53-37 on Sunday.
With the July evaluation period opening last Wednesday, Carlson said he noticed several coaches in the crowd watching his team throughout the week, including Richard Pitino and Minnesota assistants.
“I saw coach (Kyle) Lindsted was there at every game, the new assistant,” Carlson said. “I saw coach Pitino at a couple games. Coach Lindsted told me before the tournament that he would make sure to be there at every game. That means a lot.”
The 6-foot-9 Carlson and 6-10 Garcia are highly skilled posts. They both fit the “stretch four” label with the ability to face the basket, shoot and put the ball on the floor. That caught the attention of Pitino, who offered both scholarships (along with Park Center’s 2020 big man Dain Dainja) on the same day in April.
“(The Gophers) like how I can take it inside, take it to the hoop or shoot the three,” Carlson said. “They like my versatility a lot. They like how I rebound and how hard I play.”
Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin are his Big Ten offers. Carlson also has offers from Stanford, Creighton and Iowa State (his father’s alma mater).
In the next couple months, Carlson plans to take unofficial visits to Michigan, Iowa and Butler in August and late September. He will also try to see Nebraska, Iowa State and Creighton when his family makes road trips to see his sister, Brynn, play volleyball with Kansas State this fall. She’s a 6-4 sophomore outside hitter and former Cretin-Derham Hall standout.
Garcia, who just received an offer from Wisconsin on Monday, has offers from Baylor, Butler, Iowa, Xavier and Texas among others. He's reportedly scheduled an unofficial visit to see the Longhorns on Sept. 22. The Gophers were able to show him their new facilities when Prior Lake played in the U's team camp last month.
“I have been in a lot more contact with them as of late," Garcia told 247sports.com. "I’ve met all of their assistants, and I have been talking to them a lot. Coach Pitino is a good guy, and I am exciting to keep getting recruited by the Gophers.”
Garcia and Carlson could see their recruitment rise to another level after their team won the Adidas title.
“I think we both had good weekends and helped our team a lot,” Carlson said. “There were a lot of coaches watching our whole team. I think we’ll have some new interest because our team played really well.”
-- D1 Minnesota 17U and 16U teams will be competing in the Adidas Summer Championships this week in Los Angeles. The D1 MN 17s fell in double overtime 87-83 to the Compton Magic in the Adidas Gauntlet Finale, but five-star 2019 Rochester John Marshall forward Matthew Hurt and company solidified themselves as one of the top AAU teams in the country.
The Gophers top senior target Hurt averaged 20.4 points, 6.0 rebounds on 60 percent shooting from the field and 81 percent from the foul line in five games. Another prime Minnesota 2019 target and Hopkins big man Zeke Nnaji averaged 11.4 points and 4.2 rebounds in New York.
-- Pitino handed out six new scholarship offers in the 2019 and 2020 classes in the last week. Those names are Sunrise Christian (Kan.) senior guard Austin Crowley, Seattle Garfield (Wash.) senior guard P.J. Fuller, Bishop Walsh (MD) senior forward Yavuz Gultekin and Pebblebrook (GA) senior forward Jared Jones, Norfolk Academy (Va.) center Mark Williams and Trinity Episcopal (Va.) forward Henry Coleman.