When Richard Pitino and Matthew Hurt sat down together for an in-home visit in September, the Gophers coach tried to convince Minnesota’s top senior basketball player that coming to the home-state university would be the best decision for him.
Hurt, a McDonald’s All-American, won’t pick the Gophers when he announces his decision Friday during the spring signing period. The 6-9, five-star forward from Rochester John Marshall is picking between blue-blood programs.
Duke appears to be the favorite over Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky.
“It’s tough, because you want to keep those guys home,” said Eric Bossi, a national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. “Obviously, it’s a guy they’ve known about for some time because everybody has known about him and because of his brother [Gophers forward Michael Hurt]. I don’t think, though, that I’m being unreasonable to say that Minnesota was fighting an uphill battle on that one.”
With Matthew Hurt headed for one shade of blue or another, the Gophers will soon finish recruiting this class — and it will not include a high school senior from Minnesota. They have signed Tre’ Williams and Sam Freeman, both Texas natives and under-the-radar recruits.
Turning the page to the 2020 class, though, Pitino will have an opportunity to make a big local splash if he can keep blue-chippers such as Minnehaha Academy’s Jalen Suggs, Prior Lake’s Dawson Garcia or other highly touted prospects from leaving the state.
“We’ve got three really good freshmen who are from Minnesota,” Pitino said of center Daniel Oturu, guard Gabe Kalscheur and forward Jarvis Omersa. “Recruiting is not as cut and dry as everybody thinks it is. Have we gotten everything that we’ve wanted? No. … It’s not as simple as every single year you get this guy. It all evolves. … We’ve gotten our fair share of really good players out of the state. And we’ll continue to recruit the state.”
Oturu and Kalscheur contributed in big ways as freshman, and Omersa could emerge next season with more playing time. This 2018 Gophers class is poised to make an important impact on the program.
The even years have been good to Pitino. The 2016 recruiting class featured Amir Coffey (Hopkins) and Michael Hurt (JM). But the Gophers went 0-for-2017 and now again in 2019 with Minnesota high school seniors who received U offers, including Hopkins forward Zeke Nnaji (Arizona), Lakeville North forward Tyler Wahl (Wisconsin), DeLaSalle guard Tyrell Terry (Stanford) and Breck forward David Roddy (Colorado State).
The Gophers gave the next class, those talented 2020 players, another reason to consider staying home by reaching the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years and winning a tournament game for the first time in six years last month.
Pitino and Gophers assistant coach Ed Conroy made an in-home visit last week with the Suggs family at the start of the spring recruiting period for coaches to make in-person and off-campus contact with recruiting targets. The 6-5 Suggs is a high-profile recruit as a guard in basketball and quarterback in football, and he was part of USA Basketball’s Next Generation event in coordination with the Final Four.
The Gophers are setting up home visits with other 2020 in-state targets such as Prior Lake forward Garcia, East Ridge forward Ben Carlson, Park Center center Dain Dainja and Hopkins guard Kerwin Walton.
Suggs was offered by Kansas. The 6-11 Garcia could be the next player to get an offer from a top-10 program.
That will make for another tough recruiting battle for Pitino and the Gophers, but they have another year to get past losing Matthew Hurt.
“You can’t sugarcoat it and act like they’re not missing on some of those guys,” Bossi said. “It’s one thing if players leave for blue bloods. If they leave for non-blue bloods, that’s when it’s concerning.”