Monday, September 8, 2014

Welcome Aboard, Jonathan Nwankwo!

I sort of feel like he has one too many Ws in his name, but it doesn't matter because those are now our Ws as Jonathan Nwankwo committed to your favorite basketball team over the weekend after registering for an account on Gopher Hole during his official visit and chatting with fans all weekend, then breaking the news on the message board.  He's a 6-10, 245 lb. center with a Big Ten ready body and a 7-2 wingspan who shores up the Gophers' big man situation in case things continue to go south with Gaston Diedhiou.   Not that he's any kind of back-up plan, considering he ranks as the #17 center and #147 overall by 247sports, and #23/#214 by the industry composite and by all accounts is rising up the ranks.

His highlight videos all seem to be like "oh you don't want me to dunk this basketball?  Well I am very strong and jumpy and I am going to dunk this basketball and you can't stop me."  I watched nearly two minutes of a highlight video and I'm not seeing a lot of offensive skills, which isn't really true because being an unstoppable dunking machine is a skill, but you know what I mean.  Plus, Nwankwo fits Pitino's type.  And in this case I don't mean a super athletic dude, although he is, but I mean the late blooming type who is shooting up rankings and everyone who is supposed to be an expert says things like "great get for the Gophers" and stuff like that.  Assuming these guys all work out it's a great thing.  Of course it could also mean that Pitino is just getting over aggressive offering guys who aren't that good.  We'll find out.  Right now I feel good, and I still have trust in Pitino.  Because he's so freaking sweet.

The three signings - Nwakwo, Kevin Dorsey, and Dupree McBrayer - leave the Gophers with one open scholarship for 2015 (again, depending on what happens with Diedhiou) which has some people all in a tizzy because both of the top rated Minnesota kids - Jarvis Johnson and Alex Illikainen - are still out there.  Seriously though, who cares?  I mean, I would love the Gophers to get one or both because they're rated in the top 100-150 range depending on where you look, but as far as them being from Minnesota?  Big whoop.

The whole point of recruiting home town kids is that you're supposed to have an advantage in snagging them, but how's that been working out lately?  Minnesota kids have always known they can string the Gophers along and if things don't break the way they hope use them as their fall back option, partially because the fan base is so rabid in "keeping Minnesota kids home" because well, that's how this state generally thinks (why do you think Jason Kubel and Matt Guerrier were signed by the Twins this year?).  Rather than holding off on signing comparable players and holding out hoping the home town kids stay home, Pitino is signing whoever he likes who is willing to sign.  According to rankings Alex Illikainen is better than Jonathan Nwankwo, but why take a chance on losing both just to satisfy some bizarre yearning to build the team out of all Minnesota kids? (this ain't hockey)  After all, a bush in hand is worth two birds who may end up at other schools I always say.

This being (relatively) big time basketball, nothing is guaranteed so it's possible both Johnson and Illikainen end up in maroon and gold.  If they both want to be Gophers they likely will with a surprise transfer opening up a slot or something along those lines - it's a reality of big-time (relatively) college sports, and I'm ok with it.  In the meantime, however, assuming Pitino doesn't have a strong positional preference at this time this puts pressure on them both to hurry up and commit.  If things stay strong at only 4 new players for 2015 that means only one of them can get in, which means the Gophers said no to a quality Minnesota player because he took too long to make a decision.  That's a message I can get behind, so move your ass Amir Coffey.

As of right now the Gophers have the #23 class in the country according to 247sports, and the #5 class in the Big Ten.  This will likely move down as more of the high profile programs continue signing players and fill out their classes, but it's a big step the right direction for the program.  Potentially, I suppose, but I'll take it.

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