Minnesota has become a recruiting hotbed in basketball, but few have stayed home and played for their home-state Gophers, instead opting to raise their national profiles elsewhere.
While coach Richard Pitino and his staff at the University of Minnesota hit a home run with the 2018 recruiting class that featured Daniel Oturu, Gabe Kalscheur, Jarvis Omersa and transfer Marcus Carr, this season's struggles to consistently win in a loaded Big Ten has put a spotlight on the in-state recruits that haven't stayed home in recent years, namely the 2017 and 2019 recruiting classes.
Last year, none of the top-seven in-state recruits stayed home. That class was headlined by 5-star Matthew Hurt going to Duke, 4-star guard Tyrell Terry going to Stanford and 4-star forward Zeke Nnaji choosing Arizona.
Hurt has been a primary starter at Duke, where he plays alongside 2018 Minnesota Mr. Basketball Tre Jones. Terry and Nnaji are two of the best freshmen in the country, both starring in the Pac 12.
Then there's the leader of the Pac 12, Colorado, who is paced on a nightly basis by 2017 Minnesota Mr. Basketball winner McKinley Wright IV. The 2017 senior class in Minnesota completely avoided the Gophers as none of the top-eight recruits, per 247Sports, stayed home.
Throw in Freddie Gillespie, a 2015 East Ridge graduate, having an outstanding senior season (9.6 points, 8.8 rebounds per game) for No. 1-ranked Baylor and it truly is a who's who of former Minnesota prep stars shining in college, the majority of them not at the U of M.
So how do the Gophers' last three recruiting classes compare to the Minnesota kids who left?
Impact players from Minnesota's 2017 senior class:
- Jericho Sims: 9.8 points, 8.2 rebounds for Texas.
- Nate Reuvers: 13.5 points, 4.5 rebounds for Wisconsin.
- Race Thompson: key bench player for Indiana (had 10 points, 9 rebounds against MN).
- Brad Davison: 9.4 points per game as Wisconsin's starting point guard.
- Theo John: 5.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2 blocks per game as Marquette starter.
- McKinley Wright: 13.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists for Colorado.
- Ishmael El-Amin: 14.0 points per game for Ball State.
While that group is starring elsewhere, Minnesota's 2017 recruiting class featured guard Isaiah Washington and Jamir Harris, both of whom transferred and provided little impact.
Impact players from Minnesota's 2018 senior class:
- Tre Jones: 15.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 6.8 assists as Duke starter.
- Daniel Oturu: 19.6 points, 11.4 rebounds as Gophers starter.
- Gabe Kalscheur: 11.4 points as Gophers starter.
- Jarvis Omersa: key bench player for the Gophers.
Clearly, this was an outstanding recruiting class for the Gophers, which doesn't include current star guard Marcus Carr transferring to Minnesota from Pittsburgh. Carr had to sit out the 2018-19 season but has now become the Gophers' second-best player behind Oturu.
Had Carr been eligible last season, that Gopher team might've gone on a legitimately deep run in the NCAA tournament behind 2016 Minnesota Mr. Basketball winner Amir Coffey and the program's all-time leading rebounder Jordan Murphy. If that were the case, perhaps Richard Pitino's job status wouldn't be under the microscope like it is now.
Impact players from Minnesota's 2019 senior class:
- Matthew Hurt: 10.3 points (41.1% three-point shooter) as Duke starter.
- Zeke Nnaji: 16.4 points, 8.8 rebounds as Arizona starter.
- Tyrell Terry: 15.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists as Stanford starter.
The Gophers' 2019 recruiting class has shown promise with 4-star Isaiah Ihnen getting more minutes of late and shooting guard Tre Williams flashing potential, but their impacts aren't on the same level as Hurt, Nnaji and Terry.
Will 2020 be a in-state swing-and-miss for the Gophers?
The 2020 Minnesota high school senior class features four players ranked in the top 90 of 247Sports' national rankings, but none of them are committed to Minnesota. Jalen Suggs (Minnehaha Academy) is Gonzaga-bound; Dawson Garcia (Prior Lake) is going to Marquette; Dain Dainja (Park Center) is headed to Baylor; Ben Carlson (East Ridge) will cross the border for Wisconsin.
Then there's Steven Crowl, a 4-star recruit from Eastview who will also become a Badger.
And don't forget about the Madsen brothers, Gabe and Mason, from Rochester Mayo, who are both committed to the University of Cincinnati.
Seven highly recruited in-state players who are all leaving Minnesota.
That leaves Hopkins guard Kerwin Walton, a 4-star recruit, as the lone in-state hope for the Gophers' 2020 recruiting class. Competition for the 6-foot-5 Walton is stiff, as Minnesota is trying to convince him to stay home while blue bloods like North Carolina and Arizona want him.
So far, Minnesota has received commitments from 4-star guard Jamal Mashburn Jr. (Florida) and 3-star power forward Martice Mitchell (Illinois). They also have 4-star forward Treyton Thompson, formerly of Alexandria High School in west-central Minnesota, committed to the 2021 recruiting class.