Gophers assistant coach Kyle Lindsted was so impressed by Sardaar Calhoun watching a Missouri State-West Plains scrimmage last month that he told him Richard Pitino would be coming back ASAP.
Pitino showed up about a week later to catch the 6-foot-6, 205-pound freshman guard dominate in a glorified pickup game, drilling jumpers, attacking the rim and locking down his opponents defensively. A Minnesota scholarship offer followed for Calhoun, his first offer since arriving in West Plains in August.
An official visit could be scheduled soon for Calhoun, as well.
“It was really exciting,” Calhoun said. “Right after Coach Pitino was surprised how good I was he told me that he thinks I have a chance to play right away (in the Big Ten) if I keep working hard.”
Calhoun’s recruitment since high school graduation is only in the infant stages, but he hopes to schedule an official visit with the Gophers some time in October, he told the Star Tribune this week.
“It’s kind of coming at me really fast,” he said. “But hopefully, I can take at least one visit before the season starts. Most definitely, Minnesota.”
With four scholarships for the 2019 recruiting class, Pitino and his staff aren’t limiting their search to the high school prospects. Why not add some maturity to the group. Calhoun, an all-state player at Blue Ridge High School in Virginia. his senior year, will be a 19-year-old sophomore next season with three years of eligibility remaining for a Division I school.
Out of high school, Calhoun had the opportunity to pick from a number of mid-major D-I programs. Virginia Tech also wanted him for a period. Still, not having enough high-major offers turned his attention toward spending a year gaining more exposure in junior college.
“I decided to go to junior college, because I thought I could show more of my game,” he said. “People saw me as just a shooter and not an (all-around) guard. This summer, I’ve been really working on my game and gained a lot of muscle.”
Missouri State-West Plains head coach Chris Popp called Calhoun the strongest player on his basketball team after only a couple months with the program. Calhoun’ bench presses 260 pounds.
“If Minnesota had gotten him this year, I think he could help them as a freshman,” Popp said. “He’s 6-6 with a great body. He has the tools, skills and good feel for the game to already be able to play at that level. He hates the statement, but he’s a ‘shooter first.’ At times, he turns down shots to prove otherwise. But he can really, really shoot it. Elevates on his shot. Releases very high. Gets it off quickly. Has the ability to create space. He’s quick and athletic enough that he can get it off at any time. He’s not reached his potential and has a lot of room to improve, but he’s ready to go.”
Lindsted helped Wichita State sign MS-West Plains All-American guard Ricky Torres when he was still on the Shockers staff last year. Torres, who also had an Auburn offer, averaged 17 points and eight assists last season as a sophomore.
Gophers fans probably remember the name Paul Carter, who signed with the U while playing for MS-West Plains in 2008. Carter was one of the biggest surprises of Minnesota's recruiting class a decade ago.
If Calhoun is the next star to come out of the Grizzlies program, Pitino, Lindsted and the Gophers have an advantage of being the first to see him before the JC season starts Friday.
“I’d like to take credit for him, but he came in a very, very good player,” Popp said. “He’s just a young man who fell through the cracks for various reasons through the recruiting process. Sometimes you have to be seen at the right time by the right person.”