Pursuing graduate transfers continues to be a big part of Gophers men’s basketball recruiting. Drexel junior forward Alihan Demir is in Minnesota this weekend on his official visit, and there could be others making the trip to the Twin Cities this spring to see if the U is where they want to play their final season.
Meanwhile, a new proposal to change the rules for grad transfers was being voted on Friday. It would have put programs like the Gophers accepting those transfers on the hook for a two-year scholarship commitment, instead of just one year (unless the student earned a secondary degree within a year, which often does not happen). That proposal — which would have affected football, and men’s and women’s basketball — was ultimately rejected Friday by NCAA leadership.
Grad transfers can change a program’s trajectory. Just look at Texas Tech this year at the Minneapolis Final Four, with Matt Mooney (formerly at South Dakota) and Tariq Owens (St. John’s).
Mooney and Owens were looking for a chance to make an immediate impact for a title contender in their final year of eligibility. Mooney admitted the proposed rule change would’ve kept him from that opportunity.
“I’m not going to finish mine in a year,” Mooney said during the Final Four about his master’s degree. “I do think the grad-transfer rule is beneficial for teams and players.”
The Gophers, who advanced to the NCAA tournament second round this season, are trying to add a grad transfer for the third time in the last four years. Akeem Springs and Brock Stull joined the program from Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2016 and 2018, respectively. They both were able to play in the NCAA tournament.
Demir, a 6-9 native of Turkey, could possibly help the Gophers get back to the Big Dance, but there are big shoes to fill at power forward. Richard Pitino loses the best player he’s ever coached in All-Big Ten senior Jordan Murphy, the school’s all-time leading rebounder.
Last season, Demir averaged 14.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists and shot 51.2% from the field for Drexel as a junior. He also averaged 10.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists his sophomore season in 2017-18.
Minnesota might not be done with bringing in grad transfers for official visits after this weekend. Richard Pitino’s staff has also been in contact with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi guard Kareem South, UC Irvine guard Max Hazzard and Northeastern guard Donnell Gresham.
South told the Star Tribune that he’s considering the Gophers while planning upcoming visits. The Canada native played for the same Toronto AAU program Northern Kings as Minnesota sophomore point guard Marcus Carr.