As you probably know, the Gophers recently picked up an excellent commitment from Kevin Dorsey. That is a good start. With the Gophers still having three open scholarships for 2015 in hand, and entering the period where recruiting news can fly fast and furious, I figured I might as well look at who the Gophers are looking at and where they stand. All ratings via 247 sports's industry composite rankings.
PG Jarvis Johnson (#128 overall, #25 PG). Jarvis is the De La Salle kid who it seems the Gophers have been waiting on forever. The Gophers already have Dorsey on board, but I've read that it hasn't deterred Johnson at all. Pitino is reportedly pitching putting Dorsey and Johnson (and don't forget Nate Mason) together to create a back court with an interchangeable #1 and #2, just like what UCONN had last year and Louisville two years ago. It would be pretty awesome. Both like to play uptempo and run the break, and you give Dorsey the ball-handler roll and Johnson the ball-handler/scorer role and it could work, especially if Johnson's shooting comes around. It seems like he's a pretty strong Gopher lean right now, but the longer things go without him making it official the more likely it becomes a situation where Izzo misses out on his top targets and then goes hard at Johnson or something like that. We've seen it before. It's crucial to get Johnson to commit soon.
PG Craig Randall (unranked). Not a ton of information out there about Randall, and it appears the Gophers are his first high major offer, though the mid-major offers he has are from some pretty good programs (Akron, LaSalle, St. Joe's, Kent State, UTEP). Scouting reports say he can already score from both the perimeter and on the drive, and at 6-2 he has good size already, though at just 165 lbs. he'll have to put on some weight. Clearly a back-up plan if the Gophers fail to land Jarvis, but maybe not the worst plan I've ever seen. Plus he shoots left-handed, which always looks cool.
PG K.J. Walton (#96 overall, #16 PG). Getting major interest from Walton, on the other hand, would certainly force Johnson's hand and Pitino may even prefer Walton to Johnson (purely a speculative maybe here). Walton is ranked slightly higher than Johnson, but maybe more importantly is already known as a defensive terror. His ability to come in and immediately lead Pitino's press is a major selling point. You'll hear this a lot, but he's a big time slasher who needs to work on this jump shot, but his general athletic ability and defense outweigh any jumper concerns. Although there hasn't been a ton of info coming out regarding Walton to the Gophers, they're still seen as a front runner along with Xavier, who Walton says have been recruiting him the longest. Additionally, rumors say if Indiana gets involved it's as good as over. Which makes sense since Tom Crean is in no way a terrible coach or an even worse person so why wouldn't you want to play for him and his hair.
SG/SF Chris Clarke (#116 overall, #37 SG). At one point the Gophers looked to be in decent shape for Mr. Clarke, but he's absolutely killed it this summer and is flying up recruiting boards (247 has him at #39 and #8, other services used to do the composite haven't been updated as recently). And it's not just recruiting services noticing him as he's picked up offers from UCONN and Florida lately. Seeing as how Richard Pitino is trying to turn the Gophers into a poor man's Florida, but now Clarke can just go to Florida, I think it's unfortunately time to move on. Too bad, too. Dude's a force.
SG Dupree McBrayer (#255, #72 SG). Not only does McBrayer have a sweet name, but he's moving up the recruiting boards as well (albeit not like Clarke, but it's still nice to see). The Gophers are thought to be in the lead for McBrayer, who was recently in the business of taking several unofficial visits including to the Minnesota campus. Most of those visits were to teams on a lower tier (in my opinion) than the Minnesota program, other than Seton Hall, but he also recently picked up an offer from Pitt so schools are starting to pay attention to him. McBrayer is from Queens and has some ties to Kimani Young (I think) which should help the Gophers, and his combo guard skills and ability to attack the rim should help him thrive if he comes to Dinkytown. He's another slasher who needs to work on his outside shot, but his athletic ability means he'll fit in with Pitino.
SG Landry Shamet (#221, #60 SG). Shamet is interesting because he's one of the few guys Pitino is after for 2015 who is a plus shooter. There's not a ton of info out there on Shamet, probably because he's been mainly recruited by mid-majors and Colorado prior to last week when both the Gophers and Illini offered, but from what I've seen he's very smooth with the ball. He comes off as a little bit slow, but I have a feeling that could be a deceptive slowness along the lines of Deron Williams or Kyle Anderson (not comparing him to those two dudes, I'm not crazy). He's clearly starting to get noticed, and I'm getting the distinct whiff of a sleeper coming off of him. I'm not really enamored with a guy named Landry, but I'm very interested in what happens with this guy - Gopher or not.
SF Danjel Purifoy (#54, #11 SF). Purifoy is the top rated player the Gophers are still in on, although it sounds like it might be tough to get him out of the South East as he lists Auburn, Alabama, and Georgia as his top schools. Minnesota seemed to mentioned in conjunction with him quite a bit a few months back, but may have dropped off his radar as they weren't mentioned in his most recent interview I found. It's too bad if that's the case, as Purifoy sounds like an already polished slasher and finisher and a top flight defender and rebounder. His only real weakness is lack of a jump shot, but Pitino's system needs the athletic slashers to set up the shooters so he'd be perfect. Of course, he recently transferred to Hargrave Military Academy which was either the plan all along or what he needed to do after getting kicked off his high school team for ditching spring practices. Since he's not likely to become a Gopher, I choose to believe this is a red flag. I reserve the right to change my mind if things change.
SF/PF Nate Grimes (#131, #26 SF). Grimes is a bit raw, which makes his high rating all the much more impressive, who relies mainly on raw athleticism for his buckets, and I don't necessarily mean that as a negative. He's an amazing athlete who can get to the rim with his quickness, and a great jumper so he can score on put backs. He can also hit a jump shot now and again, but his perimeter game needs work and he's limited in post-up situations as well. Put it altogether, and you have an exceptional athlete with tons of room to grow - a guy you'd really, really like to have. The Gophers primary competition is Mountain West and mid-major coast schools with New Mexico and San Diego State the top dogs, so you'd think the Gophers should at least be in the running here. The unfortunate (for the Gophers) thing I read is that he's planning on waiting until the late signing period to pick a school, which means if his game blossoms he's going to start garnering interest from a lot more top level programs.
PF Alex Illikainen (#103, #24 PF). As much as I said I'd love the Gophers to get Jarvis, this is the guy I really want. He's perfect. A stretch four who can shoot the lights out and run the floor, but has enough to work on (post game, strength) that the true power programs haven't come sniffing around, he's also from Grand Rapids and although the Gophers may struggle keeping city kids home they've always had good success with out state kids, which is a plus. Illikainen just transferred to Brewster Academy, a basketball factory prep school on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire (NEW HAMPSHIRE! - no I'm not making the Lake Winnipesaukee thing up), although I don't think that really means much in terms of is intentions. Potentially playing against better competition and dominating could get him on more high profile programs' radars and it's always tougher to stay home when you have top programs flirting with you, so, as usual, the sooner they can lock him up the better. Right now Creighton, Iowa State, and Cal are the Gophers' biggest competition, and I think they can win him there. Pay attention to the offer list on this guy.
PF Ed Morrow (#122, #26 PF). Another Pitino style foward, Morrow has the size to play PF but the game to play SF. Though the reports say he needs to still work on his jumper, they also say he excels at the face up game and attacking the basket and should be an excellent defender. It's an uphill battle, however, with Nebraska holding a pretty strong lead. Not only have they "been recruiting him the longest" according to him, but both of his parents were Cornhuskers. Morrow recently announced he'll be visiting Nebraska and Iowa coming up (the Hawkeyes also earned his praise as being involved with him for a while), which leaves 3 more visits open so hopefully the Gophers can worm their way in there and make him realize how badly both Nebraska and Iowa suck as places to live. Or at least that's my impression after driving through both of them. Good enough for me.
PF/C Jonathan Nwankwo (#212, #50 PF). Of everyone on this list, this guy feels like the most likely to be a Gopher. He just cut his list to Minnesota, Temple, Rice, Tennessee, Fordham, and Seton Hall, and is in the process of setting up official visits to see the Gophers on September 4th and Tennessee on October 11th, and has already visited Fordham (unofficially) and Seton Hall (several times unofficially). I get a good feeling about Nwankwo because I've seen a couple of places where his handlers have stressed academics, and although all the schools on his list are pretty good academically the Gophers are behind only Rice and Fordham, neither of which have any kind of basketball program, if we're being honest. Temple, Tennessee, and Seton Hall all could make argument as to the best basketball program on his list, but all rank a good way behind Minnesota academically. Nwankwo would be a pretty solid get with a Big Ten ready body with good athletic ability and a chance to be a plus rebounder and defender the minute he steps on campus. He's got some work to do on the offensive end, but if everything goes according to plan they won't need a lot of scoring from him.
Let's hope everything goes according to plan.