Thursday will be another day to monitor twitter closely. Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn will be announcing his college choice. Even though he would be the perfect point guard for Richard Pitino’s system, a fan favorite, and a hero for the over 50 crowd (what a name!) things aren’t looking good, as Down With Goldy points out in agonizing detail.
recruiting isn’t going very well. To date, the Gophers have no commitments from the class of 2014 or 2015, while some schools are already offering scholarships to the classes of 2016 and 2017. File this under the unintended consequences of a coaching change. The fact of the matter is that Richard Pitino had a late start. He may be a great recruiter, or may prove to be a great recruiter in the future. Right now, he is the first year coach of a historically underachieving Big Ten team.
The top flight schools can attract top flight talent without much work. If they don’t sign their top recruits, they can easily swoop in and get “Plan B” which is often “Plan A” for lower tier programs (exhibit A – “Tum Tum” and Michigan State and Indiana).
It isn’t impossible for a school like Minnesota to get top recruits, but to get the top recruits, they either need to benefit from geography, need to build loyalty – often over several years, or engage in some less than reputable practices.
The Big Three hasn’t committed anywhere yet, and there is still the slightest of chances one of them would like the next Gopher basketball arena named after them, but they will likely head elsewhere. Unfortunately, there are not any other uncommitted players from the class of 2014 deserving of a Big Ten scholarship. There is still time for Pitino and staff to build relationships with the talented local players in later classes, and hopefully he can do so.
Richard Pitino seems to have taken the high road in recruiting, and in doing so relinquished the opportunity to secure a commitment from highly touted Isaiah Whitehead, who turned out to be a package deal with his high school coach.
For programs of Minnesota’s level, recruiting is a war of attrition. They need to work hard, and take the time to build relationships with recruits to overcome the higher level programs and their propensity to steal recruits at the last second. Time is not on Pitino’s side. He has been on the job for about six months, while other programs have been recruiting players for years. He spent most of the summer trying to make up for lost time, and racking up frequent flyer miles. So far, that hasn’t been enough.
Recruiting is a fluid process and things can change quickly. The Gophers had Josh Martin, a forward from Washington, and Riley LaChance, a guard from Wisconsin in last weekend, and both enjoyed their visit. If both signed, they would be the start of the best recruiting class since the Royce White and Trevor Mbakwe class that never really was. The Gophers continue to be finalists for several other three and four star recruits.
Hope is not lost, and there is still a very good chance that the Gophers will have very good first year players in the fall of 2014. However, they won’t be favored to win the Big Ten. It isn’t time to panic, but it is time to adjust expectations.