Oh, fall. The time of year where the leaves are changing, Halloween is right around the corner, and people are obsessing over football. With women putting back on the baggy sweaters and nary a short skirt or cleavage to be seen, where else can a man's mind turn other than the wonders of college basketball. With college basketball preview magazines starting to hit your local newsstand, I figured it's time to get to moving. Right around the corner we'll start up some of the award winning conference previews I do here every year, but before we look ahead let's look further ahead. The Gophers are still in the hunt for some interesting players for 2012-2013, including a few who have visited or will visit in this key early signing period. Let's talk about a few. All player rankings from Rivals.com because that's where I have a membership.
- C Adam Woodbury (Sioux City, IA); 7-0, 230 lbs; #7 center, #42 overall. The highest ranked recruit left the Gophers have offered (and third highest overall), Woodbury would be an incredible coup if Tubby could snag him. Not just because of his talent, which is considerable, but because of the competition for it. Not only would he be battling some top clubs (Ohio State, North Carolina, possibly Kansas and Duke as well), but he'd also be going against Woodbury's home town team (Iowa) who has only one scholarship remaining and can really focus on him, as well as recruiting nemesis Bo Ryan and Wisconsin.
The good news, however, is that there a few reasons for optimism. The first is that Woodbury is from Iowa, and everybody knows that people from Iowa are afraid of the city and anywhere that isn't the midwest, so Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa definitely have the advantage here. I also found an interview with him where he specifically calls out the Gophers (along with Ohio State, Stanford, and Iowa) as having been recruiting him the longest - not his favorites, although he doesn't claim any favorites right now - but those who have been after him for awhile. That's a nice positive. The Buckeyes also seem like they've put him on the back burner a bit - another positive.
If I had to bet money, and I probably would if I could find a site with this bet, I'd guess he's either heading to North Carolina (small townish and his AAU teammate Marcus Paige is already heading there) or Iowa (home town team). But, if he wants to break away from home, but not too far away from home, and thinks about his midwest roots and which teams have shown him loyalty and love from the beginning, he'll probably go to Wisconsin. But if they pull their offer or run out of schollys then the Gophers have a chance.
- C A.J. Hammons (Mouth of Wilson, VA); 7-0, 260 lbs.; #18 center, #123 overall. This is the guy I'd call the most important name of this group, mainly because I think he's the guy they have the best shot at snagging. He's a midwestern kid from Indiana who is playing out in Virginia after transferring to Oak Hill Basketball Factory Academy, but who had said at one point that he wanted to play in the Big 10. The Gophers have stiff competition here because Indiana and Illinois have both offered and Purdue is in the mix, but I'm giving the Gophers a very slight edge because Hammons has mentioned the Gophers specifically in an interview as a team that's been in the mix for a while and also because he counts his mom as helping him to make his decision, and you know Tubby kills it with moms.
Personally, I'd love to get this kid because he's 6-11 or seven feet tall but has measured at a 7-3 wingspan and is generally regarded as one of the best defensive centers in this class with good strength and excellent rebounding and defensive instincts who can score in the post from either block. That's just an awesome description. Of course, since he's not ranked #1 there are some negatives which include conditioning (can be mixed) and motivation (a bit nervous here thanks to 3 years of Ralph). I figure his downside is pretty much Ralph Sampson, so let's get this get on board. According to Chris Monter at gopherhole.com he's visiting this weekend, so let's hope we hear some really good news soon.
- SF Andrew White (Chester, VA); 6-6, 210 lbs; #12 SF, #56 overall. Probably the least likely get on this list, but I'm including him because there's nothing out there to say the Gophers are out of the picture. There's no real good news here either. White has 25 offers, including Texas, Kansas, Maryland, Louisville and like everybody. He's also already visited (unofficially) 5-6 schools and has officials setup to 3 more, none of which are the Gophers. I can't come up with a single reason this guy would end up at a Gopher, but he mentions his dad as an integral part of making his decision, and, as I mentioned earlier Tubby is great with parents. Moreso with Moms, but if you get the crazy involved dad who really wants his kid to grow up to be a man and get an education Tubby could sway him. If you get the crazy dad whose looking to maximize his son as an asset to get his payday Tubby doesn't have a chance, but we already did that dance with the Kardashian kid, and I'm not interested in an encore anyway. Unless of course we get Kim here somehow. I could get down with that.
- SG Sherron Dorsey-Walker (Detroit, MI); 6-4, 175 lbs.; #24 SG, #122 overall. Another guy who fits the combo-guard mold that Tubby seems to be after these days, another guy like White who has been collecting offers because he's up to 16. Even though I prefer a pure point guard and thena couple wings, Memphis under Calipari and Huggins' WVU teams intrigued me with their collection of interchangeable parts, and I think if they get this guy they are pretty much going to be doing that, at least with the perimeter players.
From the sounds of things his upside is pretty huge. I can't find any references to weakness and at some pint in the various articles I've seen shooting, ball-handling, passing, and driving and scoring at the rim listed as strengths which I guess probably means he isn't the best defender since I can't find any reference to that but whatever since that's the only thing Tubby really truly knows how to teach and with his athleticism I'm sure he could be a capable defender in no time. Well lookit here, I've apparently talked myself right into this kid.
He says he's planning to commit sometime in October and the Gophers are very much in the mix. He has visits planned already for B.C., Temple, and Iowa State (damn you Hoiberg! :shakesfist:), but lists the Gophers amongst the teams he's considering for his final two visits (along with VA Tech, Florida State, and Baylor). Maybe I'm crazy at this point, but I still believe whenever Tubby gets this close he's got a chance. He mentions Tubby and his respect and good feeling about him in one of his interviews. Of course he also said he was planning on making his decision in August and yet here we are so maybe he's just a pathological liar.
- PF Chad Rykhoek (Fort Worth, TX); 6-9, 215 lbs.; #39 PF, #135 overall. He could be the first one to sign somewhere, whether with the Gophers or elsewhere, since he's already said he's planning to commit during the early period which ends in November. That's bad news for the Gophers because he's already set up four official campus visits for the coming months (Missouri, Rice, Colorado, and Nebraska) and is trying to decide which school he wants to make his fifth official - SMU, North Texas, TCU, Drake, or the Gophers. SMU is his home town school and he mentions Drake as having been after him the longest, so they have the inside track, but Minnesota is the highest profile program of those five so who knows. I'd probably write the kid off as the Gophers not having a shot, but that seems like a fairly underwhelming list of offers, no? And in the few interviews I read he doesn't seem like he's exactly chomping at the bit to sign with any of them, so I'll give Tubby and the Gophers an outside shot here.
I didn't bother discussing Jevontae Hawkins because he seems like he's practically a done deal for West Virginia and even if he isn't I don't think the Gophers can steal him away. I also didn't include Jodan Price who dropped the Gophers from consideration after they signed Wally Ellenson or Demarquise Johnson who looks like he's going to stay somewhere out west.
As far as a list of target's for the spring session I think it's solid. The team will probably have two scholarships or so, so you don't want to overextend yourself if these are the guys you want. Keep in mind the three guys I didn't include plus Ellenson mean they've offered nine guys and that doesn't include guys who they offered who signed elsewhere (including recent losses Brandon Taylor to Penn State (ouch) and Nick Banyard to New Mexico (double outch)).
I like the quality here as well. Outside of home town kids I think if Tubby focuses on the players in the #50-#150 range that's how he can build up the program. Getting kids of that caliber (AND KEEPING THEM, DAMMIT) can help create a winning program that will allow him to sweet talk some top 50 types once in a while. Plus, since he's allegedly a good coach who can coach players up, that level of player should be perfect - talented enough to develop into a great player, but not so talented they already think they can't really be coached - not that that stops Calipari. I'm just afraid that if they whiff on all these kids or get strung out too long they're going to end up in a scramble situation again and end up with lower tier talent again. Self-perpetuating and self-defeated cycle, and I think they're already scrambling on the edge to stay off that ride.
One guy I wish they'd offer is PG Ray Lee from Michigan, who has already said he wants to play out of state so that takes Izzo (and Beilein) out of the running. He's a big kid at 6-3 and ranked #142 overall in the country. His number 1 priority is playing time, and with the Gophers absolutely refusing to address their PG problem he'd be perfect. The problem? Priority #2 is "an offense that is fast paced and allows the freedom to drive and create while being allowed to play through mistakes."
Cue: sad trombone sound.
WAAAH WAAAH WAAAH WAAAHAAAAHAAAAH.