Gophers coach Richard Pitino got an experienced big man to help fill a hole at power forward for next season with a commitment Thursday from Drexel graduate transfer Alihan Demir.
Demir, who made official visits to Minnesota and Kansas State last month, announced his decision on Twitter. The 6-foot-9, 230-pound native of Turkey has one more season of eligibility and could make an immediate impact in 2019-20 for Minnesota.
“Coach Pitino will provide me with the best opportunity to keep chasing my dreams on and off the court,” Demir said on Twitter. “I am proud to announce that I’ll be a Golden Gopher next year!”
The 6-foot-9, 230-pound Demir averaged 14.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists and shot 51.2% from the field for Drexel as a junior. He also averaged 10.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists his sophomore season in 2017-18.
“I was looking to go to a program where there is a huge opening in my position,” Demir told the Star Tribune. “A good team that has a good chance making it to the [NCAA] tournament and having a chance to make a run in the tournament. But most importantly I was looking for the right fit.”
There are big shoes to fill at power forward after Pitino lost All-Big Ten senior Jordan Murphy to graduation. Murphy finished his career as the school’s all-time leading rebounder and No. 2 in scoring. Demir is more of a versatile forward with the ability to play on the perimeter and score in the low post.
“[Murphy] averaged over 30 minutes and is graduating,” said Demir, who might replace Murphy as a frontcourt starter. “There is a need in that spot, but nothing is promised.”
Grad transfers were the talk of the Final Four in Minneapolis with South Dakota guard Matt Mooney and St. John’s forward Tariq Owens helping Texas Tech make an March Madness run.
The Gophers, who advanced to the NCAA tournament second round for the first time since 2013, add a grad transfer for the third time in the last four years. Akeem Springs and Brock Stull joined the program from Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2016 and 2018, respectively. They both were able to play on NCAA tournament teams at the U.
Minnesota had two transfers sitting out last season with Pittsburgh’s Marcus Carr and Vanderbilt’s Payton Willis. They both will be eligible to play next season.
The Gophers are searching for another ball handler with their last scholarship available for 2019-20.