The Gophers 2018 class has the potential to be the best yet for Minnesota coach Richard Pitino, who will get a good look at his top targets with his staff this week at the start of the most important recruiting stretch of the year.
The July evaluation period for Division I basketball coaches begins Wednesday with Nike, Adidas and Under Armour events hosting top players from across the country.
Pitino and his assistants Ben Johnson, Kimani Young and Ed Conroy will be in South Carolina and Georgia through Saturday to follow several AAU teams, including top local squads like Howard Pulley at the Nike Peach Jam and D1 Minnesota at the Adidas Gauntlet Finale.
Cretin-Derham Hall’s 6-foot-10 senior center Daniel Oturu, who is averaging a double-double for Pulley in Nike EYBL play, is Pitino’s lone commitment. But you can bet there will be at least a few players being watched this week that will join Oturu in Minnesota’s 2018 class by the fall.
Oturu’s squad was the No. 1 ranked team for most of the EYBL season. Pulley will contend for the Peach Jam title Wednesday through Sunday in North Augusta, S.C. The Panthers could be the team to beat again with Apple Valley’s Tre Jones back healthy and ready to prove why he's arguably the top point guard in 2018.
Jones, who leads the EYBL with eight assists per game, is fully recovered from an ankle injury he suffered May 28 in his last EYBL event in Los Angeles. Joining him in the backcourt is DeLaSalle’s four-star shooting guard Gabe Kalschuer, who ranks second in the EYBL with 51 three-pointers. Oturu, Jones, Kalschuer and Orono's explosive forward Jarvis Thomas give Pulley four starters with scholarship offers from the Gophers.
Kalscheur and Thomas have been on unofficial visits this summer. They’re both strong candidates to stay home but are planning as of now to wait until after the AAU season to schedule official visits and decide. Pulley’s first game is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday against Mo-Kan Elite. The Panthers also are in pool play 11:30 a.m. Thursday against Team Melo and 8 a.m. Friday against Nike Phamily (Calif.).
OTHER PEACH JAM TARGETS: PSA Cardinals four-star forwards Jake Forrester and Isaiah Mucius, Team Melo four-star guard Noah Locke and three-star guard Brendan Adams, Boo Williams four-star forward Keyontae Johnson, Albany City Rocks (N.Y.) four-star forward Jeenathan Williams and Expressions Elite point guard Marcus Zegarowski.
In the Adidas Gauntlet Finale in Spartanburg, S.C., D1 Minnesota is led by Rochester John Marshall junior Matthew Hurt and Armstrong senior forward Race Thompson, who were both top performers in the NBPA Top 100 camp last month in Virginia. Hurt, the younger brother of Gophers sophomore Michael Hurt, is regaining his form after being sidelined earlier in AAU play with a broken hand. Hurt is a top 10 player in the 2019 class, but he’ll get a chance to move up making his Adidas circuit debut this week.
In Hurt’s absence, the 6-8 Thompson emerged as D1’s top scoring threat. He picked up offers from Indiana and Michigan. But the Gophers remain one of the schools recruiting him the hardest with Iowa State and the Hoosiers, who recently hosted him on an official visit. D1 Minnesota opens play Thursday.
OTHER ADIDAS GAUNTLET 2018 TARGETS: Iowa Barnstormers guard A.J. Green and Castle Knights 6-8 forward Souleymane Koureissi, who could continue Minnesota's New York pipeline.
The Under Armour Association finals Wednesday through Friday in Atlanta will be another chance for Minnehaha Academy point guard Jalen Suggs to establish himself as arguably the top player in the 2020 class. Suggs, who is the only in-state player his age with a Gophers offer, will open with Grassroots Sizzle at 4 p.m. Wednesday against Texas Hard Work.
UAA FINALS 2018 TARGETS: Louisiana Elite four-star forward Joshua LeBlanc, Illinois Wolves four-star guard Tyronn Mosley, Team Thad’s 6-9 big man Javian Fleming, Team Charlotte guard Jaylen Sims and Team Harris four-star guard Eric Hunter Jr., who took an unofficial visit to the Gophers on June 17.
TOP 10 GOPHERS 2018 TARGETS FOR JULY
Tre Jones 6-2 PG Howard Pulley (Apple Valley, MN)
Race Thompson 6-8 SF/PF D1 Minnesota (Armstrong, MN)
Gabe Kalscheur 6-4 SG Howard Pulley (DeLaSalle, MN)
Eric Hunter Jr. 6-3 PG/SG Team Harris (Tindley Academy, IN)
Joshua LeBlanc 6-7 PF Louisiana Elite (Madison Prep, LA)
A.J. Green 6-3 SG Iowa Barnstormers (Cedar Falls, IA)
Jarvis Thomas 6-7 PF Howard Pulley (Orono, MN)
Jake Forrester 6-8 PF PSA Cardinals (Westtown School, PA)
Jeenathan Williams 6-6 SF Albany City Rocks (University Prep, NY)
Keyontae Johnson 6-6 SF Boo Williams (IMG Academy, FL)