When Glenwood, Minn., native Treyton Thompson committed to the Gophers last November, he was fully aware of the criticism surrounding the program for failing to recruit in-state talent.
The 2019 and 2020 classes were absent of players from the Gophers’ backyard, most notably huge misses on All-Americas Matthew Hurt, Jalen Suggs and Dawson Garcia.
Thompson will end that drought Wednesday when he signs his letter of intent to play for Richard Pitino’s Gophers to begin college basketball’s early signing period.
“I didn’t really feel like I belonged anywhere else,” the 6-foot-11 four-star forward said. “Minnesota has been my home for all my life.”
After starting high school in Alexandria, Thompson left to play at La Lumiere Prep in Indiana. That left him homesick, looking forward even more to playing college basketball back in Minnesota. He wants to change the narrative by leading more in-state prospects to stay home.
“I’m definitely going to try and start a movement,” said Thompson, who is joined in the U’s 2021 recruiting class by Sunrise Christian (Kan.) center Kenny Pohto from Sweden. “I’m just extremely excited to be here. I love the energy of the crowd. Been in Williams Arena so many times.”
Similar to recent four-star in-state prospects Daniel Oturu and Amir Coffey, Thompson prioritized playing in front of family, especially because La Lumiere is nine hours away, in La Porte, Ind. Minneapolis is just over a two-hour drive southeast from Alexandria on I-94.
“That’s one of the main reasons why I committed to Minnesota is my family,” he said. “All my grandparents and relatives live in Minnesota, so for them to be able to watch me almost every game means a lot.”
During quarantine this spring, Thompson got a taste of being back home again. He helped his father cultivate land near their family farm. He worked out with his younger brother, Chase, one of the state’s top Class of 2025 players. Their athleticism comes from their mother, who played volleyball at Concordia.
“My family is very competitive,” Thompson said. “It’s always been like that. We’ve always pushed each other to the limits.”
Thompson’s potential is limitless with outside shooting already advanced for a near 7-footer. His ball skills are improving toward making him a prototypical stretch forward. Shot blocking comes naturally with his length and mobility. Thompson was a game-changer on defense this summer with D1 Minnesota’s AAU program.
“My defense has just been skyrocketing,” he said. “I really take pride in it. At Minnesota, I feel like coming in, I could be one of the better defensive players for them.”
Going from small-class basketball in rural Minnesota to one of the most grueling national schedules in the country was humbling at first last year for Thompson, who faced a who’s who of high school phenoms such as five-star talents Jalen Green and Makur Maker.
“It took a little bit of a transition, but he figured it out,” La Lumiere School coach Patrick Holmes said. “We’re expecting great things from him for his senior year.
“He’s a Minnesota kid through and through. We have a lake here on campus and a fishing club. He was in that. He’s in his element either in the gym or out in nature. He’s a family guy, so being back home and playing for the Gophers is a great spot for him.”
Two years at prep school is critical in getting his body ready for Big Ten basketball. He was just 175 pounds when he arrived last year, but he’s now over 200. He is able to finish stronger through contact in the paint, hold his spot defensively and rebound.
“All the little things that he has to do at Minnesota we’re having him do here,” Holmes said. “It’s going to be two years of prep work to get him ready for Minnesota. But he’s up for the challenge and he’s been fantastic.”
In the 2021 class, Minnesota’s only scholarship offers were to Thompson, Minnehaha Academy 7-footer Chet Holmgren, former East Ridge and Sunrise Christian wing Kendall Brown and Stewartville’s Will Tschetter.
Brown and Tschetter will sign this week with Baylor and Michigan, respectively. Holmgren, the No. 1 senior in the country, is likely to wait until the spring to decide.