When Chet Holmgren committed to Gonzaga earlier this week, it didn't just squash the dreams of the Gophers landing their first five-star men's basketball recruit in almost two decades. It was the end of an era.
The 7-foot Minnehaha Academy senior and No. 1-ranked prospect in the Class of 2021 was one of seven players ranked five stars the state of Minnesota produced since 2017, with at least one per year.
Next year's in-state class is deep with Division I talent but 2022 and beyond right now lacks that same type of national star power.
"There are no elite, five-star kids in 2022," Prep Hoops national recruiting analyst Ryan James said. "You could tell Matthew Hurt, Chet, Jalen [Suggs] and Tre and Tyus [Jones] were five-star kids early in their careers."
On the same day Holmgren picked Gonzaga, his former five-star high school teammate, Suggs, declared for the NBA draft after one year with the Zags. The Minnesota basketball community was getting used to big moments in the national spotlight.
But there doesn't appear to be a Next Chet Holmgren or Next Jalen Suggs from Minnesota anytime soon. And that realistically opens the door for the Gophers and new coach Ben Johnson to keep top prospects home better than under Richard Pitino's regime.
"I want every kid within the state," Johnson said last month. "They need to be looking forward to one day playing at Williams Arena. They need to look forward to trying to become a Gopher."
Hoping for Holmgren is no more. Now Gophers faithful are hoping for Holloman and Heide — and they seem more within reach. Cretin-Derham Hall's Tre Holloman and Wayzata's Camden Heide are both fresh off battling in the Minnesota Class 4A title game earlier this month when Heide's team won it all 75-61.
A crafty and speedy 6-2 point guard, Holloman makes his spring AAU debut with Howard Pulley in the Kansas City Showcase this weekend, which includes Holmgren's former AAU squad Grassroots Sizzle. Heide, a bouncy and skilled 6-6 wing, plays in the Prep Hoops Live tournament in Kansas City with D1 Minnesota. They're 1-2 among the best juniors in the state and ranked between 50th and 70th nationally in the 2022 class.
James, who runs GophersIllustrated.com, compares Heide and Holloman to Daniel Oturu and Amir Coffey in terms of prospect rankings. Oturu and Coffey, now both with the Los Angeles Clippers, were the best two in-state prospects Pitino ever signed.
"The Class of 2022 is really deep talent-wise in terms of Division I scholarship players and will rank with the best ever," James added. "There will be five or six kids the Gophers can choose from; they just won't be as highly ranked."
Johnson re-offered Holloman, Heide, Caledonia's Eli King, Byron's Ahjany Lee, Totino-Grace's Demarion Watson-Saulsberry and Park Center's Braeden Carrington in Minnesota's 2022 class. King was the first Gophers in-state target to commit elsewhere since Johnson's hiring when new Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger landed him this week. Former Texas coach Shaka Smart, who inherited former five-star Prior Lake recruit and freshman Dawson Garcia at Marquette, is offering Minnesota kids as well.
Still, Cretin-Derham Hall coach Jerry Kline, who coached Oturu on the Raiders' 2018 state title team, said Johnson and assistant Dave Thorson have already been prioritizing top local recruits, including Holloman.
"I think they'll be recruiting their tails off," Kline said. "Can't forget Ben was a huge reason early on why Daniel was really attracted to the U. I think that's one of the reasons why [Gophers athletic director] Mark Coyle hired him. They're tired of seeing the local talent leave."
Pitino signed only four of the 24 prospects he offered scholarships to in the 2017-21 classes: Oturu, Gabe Kalscheur and Jarvis Omersa in 2018 and Treyton Thompson in 2021.
Not only did Johnson reach out to nearly all of the 2022 class previously offered by Pitino, but the Gophers also are looking ahead. Johnson has already offered Totino-Grace sophomore guard Taison Chatman and Minnehaha Academy freshman guard Mercy Miller.
Chatman is currently ranked as a top-30 player in his 2023 class, so he has the most potential to follow in the footsteps of Suggs and Holmgren to become a five-star prospect.
Johnson said "we can't get them all" speaking generally, but the Gophers establishing their main in-state targets this early at least could give them a head start.
"I think that's the biggest difference is that you've got a Gopher head coach who knows what Minnesota basketball is all about," Thorson said. "That's an advantage that both he and I bring to the table."