PG Ja'Quan Newton, a big Gopher target and a player who seemed like a pretty realistic get (and was ranked as the #41 recruit in the country) committed to Miami. Although this makes sense considering Miami is coming off it's best season in history, their offensive system just turned Shane Larkin from an afterthought to an NBA first round pick, the weather is awesome, and the coeds are hot, it also doesn't make sense because god dammit I wanted Newton.
At one point it seemed like Newton and Isaiah Whitehead, the #35 recruit and #10 shooting guard in the country, were considering playing together in college, even tweeting hints out to that effect, and it was looking like the Gophers were the leader for the package deal with some recruiting experts predicting that would be the outcome. With Newton off the board, suddenly predictions are that Whitehead ends up at Syracuse, although the Gophers did make his Top 6 list when he narrowed it down (or maybe he didn't, depending on who you ask) so they're still in the mix, but suddenly things look less rosy.
There's plenty of recruiting news, good and bad, going on right now as well (and you can read up on a lot of the players involved right here). Sandy Cohen committed to Marquette (probably to get away from that drunk Kirsten). Kaleb Joseph narrowed his list to three and it did not include the Gophers, as did Abdul-Malik Abu. Terry Larrier put the Gophers in his top 10, but when he listed the four schools he definitely wants to visit Minnesota wasn't included, although Josh Robinson did say he was planning on visiting Minnestoa. Josh Perkins cut his list to five and did include the Gophers, and he's an interesting case because from what I've read it sounds like his two leaders are Gonzaga and UCLA, and he's a kid who was talking package deal with Rashad Vaughn at one point. If Perkins picks Gonzaga, that's good news because Vaughn isn't considering going to the Zags. If he picks UCLA, that should make Gopher fans just a tick more nervous since the Bruins are on Vaughn's list. Of course, if Perkins picks the Gophers? Well, then we dance.
The Gophers still haven't signed anybody for 2014 and as much as I hate to admit this because it's really, really stupid my panic meter has ticked up just a tiny bit. As optimistic as I am about Pitino and like a lot of the positive recruiting things he's doing, there's still a little part of me just waiting for this whole thing to blow up in the bad way. I just want one signing. What can I say? I've been a Minnesota fan my whole life, expecting the worst is second nature.
Since Richard Pitino doesn't sleep, a few more offers have gone out for 2014. The players (rankings are ESPN and Rivals):
SF Kyle Kuzma, Burton, MI (NR/NR): Kuzma is a late riser who has suddenly been garnering a ton of attention from schools like UCONN and Missouri recently. Kuzma grew up a short point guard, but grew to 6-7 between his freshman and senior years and as such brings perimeter skills to a front court body which makes me love him a little tiny bit. It's impossible at this point to say who I would want on the Gophers the most because there are so many good players on the list, but I would definitely be happy with Kuzma. The scouting reports I've read and description of his game reminds me a lot of Francisco Garcia, and man did I love me some Francisco Garcia.
PF Bonzie Colson, New Bedford, MA (NR/NR): Colson is undersized for a PF at just 6-5, but is described as a "crafty" scorer with an "old school" game which means he likes to use the backboard. The descriptions of Colson remind me a lot of Kuzma in that he may not be a highlight reel waiting to happen but he has the skills to get things done against players who maybe pass the eye test a bit more. I love that Pitino is shooting for the stars and going after 4 and 5 star guys who are highly ranked, but if that doesn't work out you can build a really nice team out of guys like Kuzma and Colson. Plus Colson also ranks high on the "hard worker" and "does the little things" meter and Minnesota fans eat that shit up. I am pretty sure I read he was planning on giving the U one of his official visits but I can't find where I read it now so I could be wrong. Let's assume I'm right.
PG Quentin Snider, Louisville, KY (#28/31): Speaking of shooting for the stars, Snider is the one of the highest ranked players Pitino is going after, but with good reason. Snider originally committed to Louisville after his sophomore year when Richard Pitino was coaching there so there's already an established relationship. When Snider de-committed from the Cardinals a couple weeks ago the first coach to reach out to him and offer was the Gophers' Pitino. That is all great stuff and hopefully gives the Gophers an extra advantage. They're probably going to need it, because a player ranked this highly is going to draw major interest from some very good programs. The stench of Tom Crean is already creeping about.
SF Milik Yarbrough, Zion, IL (NR/NR): Anywhere you look for info on Milik he's described as a scorer with a pretty diverse offensive game. That's the positive descriptions. The negative go more along the lines of "never met a shot he didn't like", "inconsistent effort", and "streaky" which are all code words for chucker which makes sense because his brother is Vincent Yarbrough, formerly of Tennessee and the Denver Nuggets, and he was an all-time chucker. Now, chuckers aren't all necessarily evil (Vincent Grier was a chucker) but in general I'll pass on that type of player. Then again, I usually hate weird alternate spellings of names but I kind of dig on Milik so who knows.
PF Josh Martin, Bothell, WA (#92/NR): Despite being a west coast guy, Martin recently narrowed his list and his home school of Washington was the only one to make the cut from out there(others: Minnesota, Florida State, Pitt, and Oklahoma State - that is a crazy weird diverse set of schools). Martin sounds like the perfect big for the system Pitino wants to install since he's described as an athletic player who can run the floor and can step out and hit a perimeter jumper. I can't find any more information on him because Josh Martin is way too common of a name.
PG Lourawls Nairn, Bel Aire, KS (NR/#61): Yet another point guard reciprocating Pitino's love, Nairn goes by "Tum Tum" and I actually can't decide whether that would be more or less awkward than calling him Lourawls. Nairn sounds like he's out of the T.J. Ford/Jacque Vaughn (well ok, probably more like Lewis Jackson) mold where he's short and lightning quick with a terrible jumper. Obviously that can work in college basketball and work well, depending on the player's ability and willingness to use that quickness to get into the paint and then find open teammates. According to his scouting reports that's pretty much his game, so you can sign me up. I just have to figure out what to call him. Maybe the Fresh Prince since he's from Bel Aire, Kansas. Don't act like you don't love it.
PG Nate Mason, Snellville, GA (NR/NR): What a surprise, another point guard. Not that I disapprove, it's just like, whoa. I can't find a scouting report for Mason anywhere without having to pay for it, but his nickname is apparently "The Assassin" which obviously is pretty cool. The majority of his offers right now are from schools like Virginia, Clemson, LaSalle, and George Mason, so right now I would have to assume Mason is more of a back-up plan than a true priority target. So hopefully he's not a Gopher next season.
PG Omega Harris, Bethany, OK (NR/NR): Another unranked point guard, Harris at least has offers from Wichita State and Oklahoma and an actual scouting report so I already like him better than Mason. And reading said scouting report this guy sounds like Pitino's perfect point guard,
"Harris is an attacking point guard that is a very good athlete that
excels on the break where he is a crafty finisher. He beats defenders
off the bounce with a an excellent first step. Harris can get to the rim
and hit the rythum dribble pull up or three in addition to knocking the
open three off the catch with time. Harris has a good handle and
matching court vision in drive, draw and kick or drop off situations. He
gets teammates scoring opportunities with his ability to penetrate and
create help situations. Harris can score but is very unselfish as well.
He also sets the tone with his ability to pressure the ball defensively."
I'm pretty sure that's exactly how he'd draw up his dream point guard. Plus, again, sweet name.
Clearly this latest group of recruits to get offers is a step down from the previous batch that went out like crazy, but it's a good solid approach by Pitino. Try to hit the home run (or multiple home runs) but also make sure to cover the players' who may not be the tops nationally but whose skills fit what you're trying to do. The next step down is players who don't fit what you're trying to do or who kind of suck, so it would be very good to try to avoid those. Seriously though, if he ends up missing on all his high profile targets, a recruiting class of SF Kuzma, PF Colson, SG Macura, and PG Nairn or Harris won't crack the national rankings and might feel like a disappointment, but that would be a pretty solid group to build around.
I'm already rationalizing. I hate being a Gopher fan sometimes.