Joe Coleman, the 6’3” Hopkins guard, a consensus top 100 recruit, and #26 shooting guard in the country, has committed to play basketball for the Gophers next season according to multiple sources. He is the top recruit in the state, and fills a position of need for the Gophers, who will confront the departure of Al Nolen and Blake Hoffarber at the end of this season.
It has been several seasons since Minnesota had a player like Coleman in the back court. He is extremely athletic, loves to put the ball on the floor, and can go hard to the rim. Think Al Nolen’s first step, Lawrence Westbrook’s fearlessness, and Vincent Grier’s ability to finish. For most of Tubby Smith’s stint with the Gophers, his teams have lacked the slasher that can not only create his own shot but also finish. Coleman is that player. There are some questions about his outside shot, but after showing off a much improved outside shot during the summer AAU season, Coleman looks to be a complete player. That, and youtube never lies.
Because of his family connections to the Gophers, his brother Dan and uncle Ben preceded Joe in attending Minnesota, Coleman was expected to be a Gopher lock. However, over the winter there was apparent confusion over whether the Gophers had offered him a scholarship and how seriously the Gophers were recruiting him. With the hire of Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State and their eventual successful recruitment of former Hopkins teammate Royce White, it appeared that Coleman might slip away. The Cyclones eventually recruited a junior college point guard, leaving the Gophers as the only legitimate candidate left in the Joe Coleman sweepstakes.
When Tubby Smith arrived in Minneapolis, goal number one was to restore the Gopher program to respectability. Goal number two was to close the borders. The two goals are inextricably linked. By closing the borders, the team would improve, and with an improving team, it would be much easier to close the borders and keep Minnesota’s best basketball talent to play for the state’s only Division I team.
Perhaps even more importantly, at least in the short term, the Gophers have a big hole filled relatively early in the year, and won’t be forced to scramble to fill multiple holes in the roster (now if they can only find a point guard). Minnesota’s other recruits are on notice. Naadir Tharpe, Andre Hollins, and Josh Olglesby remain Gopher targets, but there are only spots for two of them. They have some decisions to make, and time may be running out.