The transfer market continues to be a big recruiting ground for Richard Pitino. The Gophers men’s basketball team landed one of the most versatile players available in Rice guard Drew Peterson, who committed Monday evening to the program.
Peterson, who said he picked the Gophers over Creighton and Vanderbilt, has two years of eligibility remaining, but he is hoping to be able to play immediately next season.
“Minnesota kind of stuck out to me from the beginning,” Peterson told the Star Tribune on Monday. “It’s a great academic school and business school as well. But I really liked the roster for next year. They brought in a few transfers already. So, I think we really have a good shot to make some noise.”
The Gophers acted quickly to fill their last scholarship after Hopkins four-star guard Kerwin Walton announced earlier Monday he was picking North Carolina. Peterson joins fellow transfers Liam Robbins (Drake) and Brandon Johnson (Western Michigan) to commit to the Gophers during the late signing period.
Pitino’s pitch to Peterson was that he could fill a similar role to former Gophers star Amir Coffey, who was a third-team All-Big Ten selection in 2019. The 6-8, 185-pound Peterson resembles Coffey’s all-around game and size, as a big guard with the ability to shoot from deep, facilitate and attack in pick-and-rolls.
“I had a great virtual tour with them,” Peterson said. “They really emphasized getting a guy who is versatile, can help facilitate and be a do-it-all guy. I think I can fill that role with their team.”
A native of Libertyville, Ill., Peterson averaged 11.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists for Rice in 2019-20. He had 112 assists playing multiple positions in the backcourt.
The Gophers lose three starters from last season, so Pitino ideally wants to fill those slots with transfers. Johnson, a 6-8 Chicago native, will slide in at power forward as a grad transfer.
Robbins, a 7-foot sophomore, and Peterson would have to sit out next season under current transfer rules. The Gophers are filing a waiver for Robbins to play right away. The NCAA is also expected to meet in May to determine whether to allow one-time immediate eligibility to all transfers.
“Coach Pitino emphasized he wants to me to come in and play right away,” Peterson said. “I’m going to do anything in my power, but I hope the [NCAA] meeting goes well May 20. Coach Pitino wants me ready to go, so hopefully we can get me playing first year.”
The Gophers had a scholarship open when junior guard Payton Willis transferred to the College of Charleston earlier this month. Peterson could be competing to replace Willis alongside Gabe Kalscheur and — should he return to school — Marcus Carr.
Playing time and fit were major factors in his decision. But Peterson also grew up about 40 minutes north of Chicago. He always loved watching Big Ten hoops.
“I had been consumed with that my whole childhood,” he said. “Getting to participate in that is going to be quite an experience for me.”