Much of the weekend was spent with the Gophers men’s basketball team waiting on Hopkins guard Kerwin Walton’s decision. The mystery surrounding the recruitment of one of the nation’s top unsigned seniors continues.
Walton’s announcement failed to come as expected Saturday. No updates on the process came Sunday from the four-star prospect. Walton and his family had been struggling late Saturday to decide between the Gophers and North Carolina, according to sources with knowledge.
It’s unclear now, though, if Walton’s decision is down to a two-program race. His finalists also included Arizona, Creighton, Georgetown and Vanderbilt.
“Walton is one of the best shooters from deep, regardless of class, in America,” Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Eric Bossi said. “He’s also got tremendous size and a big frame. He’s a skilled scorer who always seems to get open for clean looks. He can come in and help out [any program] right away.”
The Gophers are hoping to land another wing with their final open scholarship, but they missed out Sunday on George Mason graduate transfer Justin Kier, who committed to Georgia over the Gophers and North Carolina State.
That still leaves the possibility of landing Walton, who averaged 26 points and 11 rebounds and made the Star Tribune All-Metro first team this year.
Landing Walton would help coach Richard Pitino end the drought of Minnesotans to sign with the program. The Gophers missed on all of their previous targets in the 2019 and 2020 classes, including McDonald’s All-Americas Matthew Hurt, Jalen Suggs and Dawson Garcia. The last locals to sign with the Gophers were Daniel Oturu, Gabe Kalscheur and Jarvis Omersa in 2018.
“It’s always good [if you can] keep the local talent like him home,” Bossi said of Walton.
Pitino’s current 2020 class includes four-star Brewster Academy (N.H.) guard Jamal Mashburn Jr. and four-star Chicago Heights Bloom forward Martice Mitchell. The Gophers also signed transfers Liam Robbins from Drake and Brandon Johnson from Western Michigan to begin the late signing period.
Another scholarship opened up for Pitino when starting guard Payton Willis transferred this month to finish his career at the College of Charleston (S.C.).
The Gophers were mentioned among the top 10 schools Sunday for Gardner-Webb guard Jose Perez, who took a virtual tour last week with Minnesota. UNLV’s Jonah Antonio, Rice’s Drew Peterson and Monmouth’s Ray Salnave are transfers who have heard from the Gophers this spring as well.
Pitino might not be done tapping into the transfer market to fill holes for next season, but Walton would still be the ideal fit to close out Minnesota’s 2020 recruiting class.