Demarion Watson-Saulsberry wasn't a starter as a high school sophomore, but he was on a loaded Minnehaha Academy team that featured Jalen Suggs and Chet Holmgren.
After transferring to Totino-Grace last year, the 6-foot-8 wing saw his confidence soar in a bigger role. Now he's among the next in line to break out this summer for a Grassroots Sizzle AAU program once led by Suggs and Holmgren.
"He's the best prospect in the program right now," Team Sizzle's Brian Sandifer said. "His ceiling is so high. He shoots it. He's a big time athlete. And he's starting to understand the sense of urgency he needs to play with."
Sandifer has top 2022 prospects such as Minnehaha Academy's Prince Aligbe and Chase Carter and Park Center's Braeden Carrington, but Watson-Saulsberry's just starting to realize how good he can actually be.
"I've just been working hard," Watson-Saulsberry said. "A year ago, I wasn't as confident in myself as I am now."
A top priority for new Gophers coach Ben Johnson in the state of Minnesota's loaded 2022 class, Watson-Saulsberry owns a scholarship offer from Johnson and his staff, as does Carrington.
"I talked to Coach Johnson very frequently," Watson-Saulsberry said. "Probably every other day, he sends me texts. I'm very familiar with their staff."
Watson-Saulsberry did a video chat with assistant coach Dave Thorson just recently. He said he would "most definitely" visit the Gophers at least unofficially this year before making his college decision.
"I really like Minnesota," he said. "They have a really good facility, a new facility. They have new coaches who already believe in me like Ben Johnson. They were telling me they really like my game. They think it fits the style of play at Minnesota and the culture they're building there. They said my freshman year I could be a really big part of that."
Stanford offered Watson-Saulsberry a scholarship this spring. He's also considering Missouri, the first high major program to offer last year. Ranked as a four-star recruit by 247Sports.com's composite rankings, he's continuing to hear from other schools, including Iowa State and Purdue.
During a recent AAU practice, Watson-Saulsberry's versatility was on display as he guarded Minnehaha Academy and Gonzaga 7-foot recruit Holmgren. The nation's No. 1 senior had to earn every basket against Watson-Saulsberry's athleticism and length with a 7-foot wingspan.
In an up-tempo style, Watson-Saulsberry's hard to defend in his own right. He can rise quickly for emphatic slams and blocks. He loves to pull up for jump shots beyond the arc. Adding over 20 pounds (from 175 to nearly 200 in a year) helps him play through contact on drives into the lane.
Last October, Richard Pitino offered Watson-Saulsberry, hoping he found the next Amir Coffey, who starred for the Gophers two years ago before signing with the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Gophers' new staff building a relationship early could mean something when the Sizzle standout's profile continues to rise this summer, likely collecting more big offers.