No matter what you thought of the Tubby for Pitino swap, there's no denying that the new coach has had an electrifying effect on recruiting for the Gophers. He's been working his ass off, as you can see from this post at From the Barn. Not only does he have more offers out to top players than Tubby ever did, recruiting experts and AAU coaches on Twitter continually bring up Minnesota with one even mentioning, "Minnesota has suddenly become one of the "it" places among recruits." Pitino has yet to land a commitment, and it's still more than possible that he whiffs on all these top players, but just for kicks lets take a look at who is in the crosshairs. Rankings are ESPN first, then Rivals.
PG Tyus Jones, Apple Valley, MN (#3/#2): I'm fairly certain you've heard of him. There is a lot of speculation that he's simply keeping the Gophers on his list because they're the home town team and I think that's probably the case, but you never know. He and Jahlil Okafor (#1 for 2014) continue to talk about playing together and Okafor isn't interested in the Gophers. I'd be pretty stunned if Jones ends up anywhere besides Duke or Kentucky.
SG Rashad Vaughn, Golden Valley, MN (#11/#7): Of the Big 3 Minnesota kids in this class I continue to believe Vaughn is the most likely to wear the maroon and gold, simply because he seems to do things his own way. He also recently gave an interview where he acknowledged that if he stays home for college he "knows [he] will be a superstar and the city would love [me]." That's certainly true, but the heat will be on him big time from other programs as well as coaches/scouts have been drooling over his ability to Byron Buxton levels in this evaluation period. Rumors about that he wants to play with Josh Perkins (PG, #24 in the class, see below) and if they do stick together it's probably going to be Minnesota, UCLA, or Kansas. Vaughn is the #1 guy I hope the Gophers end up with. He recently transferred to Findlay Prep in Vegas for his final high school season, and although some claim that's good for the Gophers and some claim that's bad, I will admit that it could go either way. Hopefully he gets really home sick.
C Goodluck Okonoboh, Boston, MA (#19/#32): Haven't heard much on this kid since the initial offer went out and it sounds like Indiana is holding pretty strongly in front for his services. He's a great defensive center which would fit perfectly with the Gophers, but it's not looking likely.
PG Josh Perkins, Denver, CO (#24/#28): I would love to have this kid because although I think I remembered reading about some issues off the court (and I could be remembering wrong) he's described everywhere as a true pass-first point guard and I would love another Arriel McDonald back in my life. If Pitino's (and staff) recruiting efforts truly pay off with a lot of talent coming here, a pass first point guard would be a great addition to an uptempo offense. I think I heard Arizona was the leader at one point, but they just signed a different highly ranked point guard so that may open Perkins back up and hopefully Rashad Vaughn can push him towards the Gophers.
SG Isaiah Whitehead, Brooklyn, NY (#35/#17): This is the guy who has everybody, myself included, really excited for many reasons, beyond simply that he's an elite scorer. First, he's a guard from New York, and the fact that the Gophers were able to get him to seriously consider coming to the midwest is huge considering Minnesota hasn't had a NY guard since Eric Harris I believe. Pitino's assistant, Kimani Young, was touted as a great hire for the program because of his deep ties in the Northeast and specifically New York, and it looks like it's already making waves. Secondly, he and Ja'Quan Newton (Philly PG, #67 in the class, see below) seem to be very strongly leaning towards playing together next year (they sound more committed to it than Perkins/Vaughn) and Whitehead seems to love Pitino/Young, getting him could result in top guards committing. Lastly, combining all these factors instantly makes Minnesota more relevant in the recruiting game than even getting Vaughn would (because of the home town factor). That's why even though Vaughn is probably my #1 in terms of ability for the Gophers to sign, Whitehead is probably more important to the long term health of the program.
PF Reid Travis, Minneapolis, MN (#40/#40): The third of the Big 3 and the toughest to get a read on for me because he has so much else going for him besides basketball. He's a stud on the court, but he's also a pretty good football player with an offer to play QB for Boston College (and a hoops offer there as well) and I haven't heard if he plans to try to play both in college definitively one way or the other. Additionally he's a great student and holds a hoops offer from Harvard and people have done stranger things than choose athletics over academics before. Stanford is apparently sniffing around as well but hasn't offered yet, so it will be interesting to see what happens there. If you're serious about both academics and athletics it's tough to beat Stanford, although luckily Minnesota ranks pretty highly in those academic things as well, although they aren't elite. Travis holds some additional importance because Pitino and company seem to be hammering guards as their top priority, so locking down a big man would be helpful.
PG Kaleb Joseph, Nashua, NH (#51/#56): Joseph has a really weird profile because although he has offers from Syracuse and Georgetown he also has offers from Fordham and Delaware, and despite the high ranking his scouting report talks about how he has to "turn potential into production" so I'm wondering if he's the rare PG project. In any case, getting an east coast PG to take a strong look at the Gophers, considering they're the westernmost school to have offered, only bodes well for the future. I'd put Joseph as the #3 PG on the wish list behind Perkins and Newton (#4 I suppose if you want to keep dreaming about Tyus).
PF Paul White, Chicago, IL (#57/51): ESPN doesn't have this guy as having a Gopher offer, but Rivals does and I'm pretty sure I remember reading that the Gophers offered him so we're going to run with it. Of course this guy has offers from every non-Kentucky/Duke/Kansas school out there pretty much, so there's a lot of competition. He's another guy that will likely move up the recruiting rankings when they are revised, so hopefully the Gophers got in on him early enough to make a big impression since it sounds like he's a pretty complete player already and is described as a "crafty low post scorer" which I really like. Pretty boring name though.
SF Terry Larrier, Bronx, NY (#59/#38): Another east coast guy giving a long look at the Gophers, Larrier is similar to Joseph in that he holds an offer from nearly every northeastern school no matter how big or how small, but he stands out a bit thanks to offers from Florida, Florida State, Arizona, and VCU as well and just picked up a couple more from NC State and Texas. He's described as a "classic jump and run athlete" who "wants the ball and isn't afraid to make plays in the open floor" so you can understand why Pitino (and VCU) would be drooling over him. He's visited the campus, along with a few other schools, and says he's going to trim his list this month and then make a decision in November or December. I'd like him here, but he's just exploding nationally so it's going to get tougher and tougher.
PG Ja'Quan Newton, Philadelphia, PA (#67/#41): I'm finding myself falling for Newton because he seems to be a guy who is being mentioned in every recruiting story as a guy who is playing well to the point where I'd be surprised if he's not significantly higher in the next set of rankings that come out if they update them which I am guessing they will after this evaluation period. That, the east coast thing, and his connection with Whitehead make Newton a top priority get, but after being more of a scoring guard and successfully adding more point guard-ish stuff to his resume he's blowing up. Pitino has been on him since minute one and hopefully has made a nice impression, because Newton is going to be getting a lot more attention in the coming months. I WANT this guy. I used all caps to make that point clear.
SG Sandy Cohen, Green Bay, WI (#70/#93): Usually when I mention Sandy Cohen people ask how he could let Trey move in with him since he clearly was a very different case than Ryan, but this time I'm talking about the guard from Wisconsin. He's another riser with the majority of his offers being regional and/or mid-majors, but Memphis has jump on board and it's only a matter of time before he starts hearing from some more premiere programs. At this point he seems to be pretty much in love with Marquette and they've made an offer, so it's curious as to why this marriage hasn't been made official yet. Some have speculated that perhaps Cohen is a back-up plan for Marquette, much like Taylor was for Ryan after Marissa's death, and that could lead to Cohen going somewhere else. Somewhere fabulous. Like Minnesota.
PG Alex Robinson, Arlington, TX (#89/#71): Robinson is cool because he's a fairly recent offeree and when he was asked who was recruiting him the hardest he said "Minnesota" which is nice of him. I don't really know much about him, but his scouting report makes him sound like a pretty complete point guard who needs to get stronger and is a bit of a streaky shooter, which pretty much sounds like almost all incoming freshmen point guards. One other point in his favor, other than how he is obviously totally in love with the Gophers, is that he's a lefty, which means that even if he's streaky with his jumper it's going to look so, so pretty.
SF Josh Cunningham, Chicago, IL (NR/#69): One of the weirdest cases on the list, simply because one site has him as a top 70 player while the other doesn't have him in the top 100 and while that would probably be a common thing if these lists came about truly independently but since I'm pretty sure these guys mostly just crib off each other it's kind of strange. He's also kind of strange because his best offer outside of the Gophers is either Oklahoma or DePaul, depending on your opinion of the two programs (note: I'd go Oklahoma - have you ever been to DePaul's arena?). Check out some of these words/phrases used to describe him in his scouting report though - "warrior", "tenacity", "nose for the ball", "makes winning plays", "prototypical high mid-major prospect", "undersized", and "blue collar attitude." Doesn't that sound like a scouting report for Nick Punto, outside of the mid-major thing because that wouldn't make any sense? Pass.
PG Wade Baldwin, Hillsborough, NJ (NR/#117): If Pitino misses out on all the other northeast point guards Baldwin isn't a bad consolation prize if that's who ends up at the U. He's a bigger point guard (6-2) for a college kid and augments his height by being big and strong for a upcoming freshman. The knock on him is that he doesn't have much of an outside shot, but not only is that a skill that can be learned at a later date (see: Harris, Eric) but if Pitino is successful in instituting an up-tempo system it's more important to have a point guard who can get to the rim than it is one that can shoot the 3 (see: Siva, Peyton) as long as you have shooters around him. Which I assume is the plan.
C Chinanu Onuaku, Upper Marlboro, MD (NR/#120): Hey a center. That's weird. Knowing Pitino he must be a really athletic dude who maybe isn't all that skilled, right? Check. A "long and strong" (tee hee) shot blocker who has a major strength in his ability to run the floor for his size. With not very much of an offensive game. Totally makes sense. You know what Gorgui Dieng's profile said coming out of high school? Pretty much the exact same thing. Except the Dieng already had a 15-foot jumper whereas near as I can tell Onuaku has a 3 foot jumper. Also Dieng spoke five languages, and there's no mention of multilingualism in Onuaku's profile. For shame.
SG J.P. Macura, Lakeville, MN (NR/#126): This is the guy I expect to be the first signee in the 2014 class, although more and more schools are starting to get in the mix. From the sounds of things Macura had been waiting for an offer from the Gophers and was ecstatic when he received it. Prior to that I think the leader was Butler so who knows where that stands now with the Brad Stevens to the Celtics weirdness. I've watched a couple highlight videos and he can flat out score. He's got great range, a quick release, and an ability to score in the paint that's impressive and some might even call crafty. I don't know how much he will be able to contribute in his first year wherever he ends up going because I think his defense looks like it's a bit suspect. I don't really know what I'm talking about though.
SF Marial Shayok, Ottawa, Ontario (NR/NR): This is confusing because ESPN says this guy is from Canada but Rivals says he's from New Jersey. Man this reporting stuff is confusing and difficult. This guy doesn't have the immediate impact potential of most of the rest of the guys on this list, reflected by his lack of a ranking at either site, but his scouting report makes it sound like he's the type who just hasn't tapped his potential yet. Unfortunately I can't be bothered to wait for all the winning so begone with you. He does hold offers from West Virginia, LaSalle, and Marquette so it's not like he's a terrible get or anything, I'm just unreasonable with my expectations.
PF Tory Miller, Lee's Summit, MO (NR/NR): Well he's from Missouri yet doesn't hold an offer from Missouri, so that's pretty much a big red flag right there, but he's also got potential. He's a big dude with a real power game, and once again Marquette is in the mix for his services so I'm pretty sure they're just following Pitino around and offering all the same dudes. Or maybe Pitino is following Buzz around. Either way, it doesn't seem like the ideal way to recruit.
PG Jalyn Patterson, Alpharetta, GA (NR/NR): He's from Georgia and he does have an offer from both Georgia and Georgia Tech so huzzah! Also Georgia Southern and Georgia State! Wow, Georgia officially loves this kid. I would say more but they didn't even give this dude a scouting report. Uh, he also has an offer from Auburn and he's 6-1.
That is a lot of offers. Hopefully this works. He's also already hitting the trail for 2015 with some of the top kids both nationally and locally, and also just offered 2016 Minnesota kid Amir Coffey (yes, Richard's son). I've upgraded from cautiously optimistic to less cautious, more optimistic. Once we get that first signing down I'm going to throw a party. With a keg and everything.