When it comes to Gopher basketball recruiting for next season there are really only four names you need to care about: Joe Coleman, Naadir Tharpe, Andre Hollins, and Josh Oglesby. That's it. Everybody else of consequence has signed with Virginia (Malcolm Brogdon and Paul Jesperson) or seems like more of a fallback and will probably go somewhere like Northwestern or Stanford or some other smart person school with his big brain and slow white body (Shelby Moats - and don't get me wrong, I like what I've read and think he could be successful here, but my instincts tell me he's going to a smarty pants school). Here is who is relevant:
SG Joe Coleman - Hopkins, MN - #34 SG and #116 overall by Rivals. He's rated even higher by ESPN, and there's no doubt he should be the #1 priority for Tubby and crew. Not because he plays the biggest position of need for 2011-2012, which is pretty clearly point guard, but because he's a highly rated player from Minnesota. Tubby did a great job getting Rodney Williams and Royce White, even though we're still kind of waiting for Rodney to arrive and obviously Royce never really did. Or, more accurately, he arrived wielding a sledgehammer, destroying everything around him before fleeing to Ames. But it's still important to keep Minnesota kids who are highly rated in state because it sends a message to future players.
Guys like Tyus Jones, class of 2014 PG already on everybody's radar, see top instate talent, guys they've played against and/or played with in camps and on all-star teams, heading to play for the Gophers and it creates a culture where that just becomes what you do. Obviously you can't solely recruit instate players, this isn't hockey in the 90s, but it can become almost automatic that a top flight instate player stays home, but that has to be built up, and Tubby has to continue that momentum and that means getting Coleman. The fact that his brother, Dan, played here cements it ever further that Coleman is the #1 most important player in this class.
All accounts I've read say he is going to be deciding soon, possibly as early as today, and he's basically narrowed it down to Santa Clara and the Gophers after eliminating Iowa State earlier this week following their signing of SG Tyus McGee. With the Broncos the Gophers only real competition it almost seems like a given, but don't underestimate the beautiful weather and the pretty girls in California. And don't forget Ray Cowels, formerly of Hopkins, is still out there to help sell Coleman on the West Coast. I know I was worried that he'd talk Rodney into it, and obviously that didn't happen, but it's still something to be concerned about.
PG Naadir Tharpe - Wolfeboro, NH - #20 PG and #91 overall by Rivals. Tharpe is an extremely important get as well, because after this coming season Al Nolen graduates (or loses eligibility at least) and that leaves the team with no real point guard unless you want to count Bryant Allen or Maverick Ahanmisi, and I really don't. There's really no other point guard on the radar either, although there is a combo guard I'll talk about in a minute, but I'd rather go to battle with a true point than a combo (plus we already have one of those in Devoe), and by all accounts Tharpe is a true point guard.
ESPN speaks glowingly of his skills in their scouting report, citing his "tight handle", "excellent court vision", and ability to run the offense and break and apply ball pressure. The Gophers are said to be at the top of his list following his visit September 17th, when he tweeted he had an excellent steak at Seven with Tubby, which should be good news but makes me nervous. He had only scheduled two visits, with the Gophers and with Rutgers, but ended up canceling the Rutgers visit after they signed a different point. With Minnesota the only team on the radar I was hopeful he would sign quickly after coming to Minneapolis, but despite telling everyone he had an excellent visit and that he connected with Tubby and really enjoyed himself, that didn't happen.
Tharpe has come out and said he won't make a decision until Spring, which gives more teams a chance to come sniffing around, and Kansas has now expressed interest after PG Josiah Turner signed with Arizona. Did he not make the Gophers his choice simply because he's a young kid who is enjoying the process and all the attention, or was there something he didn't like when he was here? Either way, you're going to have to hold your breath for a while and hope no other program worms its way into his heart. Gophers lead on him, for now.
SG Josh Oglesby - Cedar Rapids, IA - #36 SG and #119 overall on Rivals. Oglesby is an interesting one, because depending on the source he's either a pure shooter or a combo guard, and ESPN doesn't have him evaluated at all. It's also hard to get a read on where he's leaning, because he has apparently loved every school visit he's made (including his visit to Minnesota last weekend), and he hasn't really given anybody a pecking order, outside of his top four: Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Arizona State - not in any particular order.
He's from the great Corn state, so I'm sure there is part of him that would love to become a Hawkeye and return that school to glory, but have you seen the mess that program is right now? It seems like a good player with other viable options might shy away, so that's the hope here. Ryan James of GopherIllustrated.com describes him as "the unselfish marksman" (sounds like a combo guard to me) and he's been called the best shooter in Iowa, which you know has a bunch of kids like Jimmy Chitwood, so that's not exactly faint praise. He will visit Illinois this weekend and then make his way down the Arizona State the following one, so we should know more by early October. I do know that the more I read about him, the more I like him. Seems very Blake Hoffarber-y.
SG Andre Hollins - Memphis, TN - #40 SG and #126 overall by Rivals. Andre is no relation to incoming Gopher freshman Austin Hollins, but he sounds pretty similar: a smart player with a good jump shot who can also put it on the floor and drive and plays good defense. Sign me up. He's also another nerd, like Moats, who is takes his academics very seriously, which is why he includes Harvard and Stanford in his top 5. Of course, he also has Ole Miss, so who knows how serious he is about it.
The Gophers are also in his top 5, and he will be making his official visit to the campus this weekend, having previously visited Auburn and Harvard and come away impressed. He still has future visits to Stanford and Ole Miss coming up and, similar to Oglesby, he has committed to making all of his official visits before making his decision. His final trip is to Stanford on October 15th, so we won't know more until then.
Also like Oglesby, Hollins is a combo guard but more of a two, so if the Gophers were to miss out on Tharpe and get Hollins (or Oglesby) they would at least have someone capable of running the point along with Devoe and those other two, even if it isn't his #1 skill set position. It sounds like Andre, his dad, and his coach are all very impressed with Tubby Smith, enough so to get the Gophers in his top five at a late date, and hopefully that will be enough to help pull him to the Gophers.
Now there are a few other guys who could be in play, but these four are pretty clearly the main targets and the main priorities, and they should be. If all four end up whiffs it could be another mediocre recruiting class for Tubby, and losing Coleman would especially hurt. So let's not let that happen. Agreed? Agreed.