I’ll admit, I’m still getting used to the ruthless efficiency Richard Pitino is showing in all things basketball. It’s actually incredibly disorienting to have someone in charge who’s not only resourceful, but also great at what they do. Like, no one before him thought to turn the Bierman Complex basketball court into a makeshift practice facility?
But perhaps the most impactful change we’ve seen so far under in the Pitino era is a clear uptick in recruiting prowess. I mean, when’s the last time you can actually remember having all recruits from the upcoming class locked up in the early signing period? (note: it was 2009) And here we are, barely into his second year and the program is already humming along like he’s been in charge for a decade.
In his first crack at a real recruiting class in a “normal” year, Richard not only went out and grabbed four nationally-rated guys (including two four-star recruits), but nabbed the state’s most sought-after recruit in Jarvis Johnson. Oh, you know, all in a day’s work.
And think about the guys he pulled in in just a few months when he first got brought on board? Dre Mathieu, Daquein McNeil, Malik Smith. These were big-minute players that he molded together with toothpicks and clay to form an NIT championship team. I’m giddy with the idea of what he can do with a couple real turns under his belt.
So, in preparation for the season, I decided to pull together some quick backgrounders and highlights for the newcomers. Yes, we won’t see them until next year, but it’s never too early to get excited. And with so many guards in the class, it’s a nice look into where the team is headed. All indications are it’s going to be fast. Fast and intense.
The Class of 2015
Kevin Dorsey, PG, Paul IV (MD) High School
As a four-star PG recruit, Dorsey kicked off the recruiting class in a nice way after verbally committing in July, rejecting offers from Maryland and Nebraska. Out-recruiting the locals! At 6-0 he’s not short, but is super quick and shows the ability to get to the hoop. Can he dunk? Yes he can. Does he do it in games? It’s unclear. One thing is for sure, though, he fits into Pitino’s pick-and-roll-heavy, pressure-oriented system quite well.
Dupree McBrayer, G, Elizabeth (NJ) St. Patrick’s School
McBrayer, the second commit of Pitino’s class brings a versatile guard presence to the lineup. Versatile in that he can conceivably play as a PG or off the ball. At 6-4 he’d be a tall point guard, so he projects as a wing, especially since he’s considered an effective shooter. A three-star recruit, he’ll join up with Dorsey to form a pretty formidable backcourt when all is said and done. And as a lefty, he’ll bring an interesting driving dynamic to the court.
Jonathan Nwankwo, PF, Victory Rock (FL) Prep (via Monsignor Scanlon (NY) High)
If this keeps up, the Gophers will have the most unpronounceable front court in the nation. Nwankwo (pronounced wonk-whoa), took the road less traveled and officially committed via message board on GopherHole. A three-star power foward, Nwankwo checks in at 6-10, 240 and brings a 7-2 wingspan to the table. There have been initial comparisons to Trevor Mbakwe, but the truth is Nwankwo is a big dude who excels at rebounding and intimidating opponents in the paint. His offense needs polish, but it’s clear he’ll at least be able to step in right away and contribute from a defensive standpoint. He also had offers from Boston College, Seton Hall and Tennessee.
Jarvis Johnson, PG, DeLaSalle (MN) High School
Just when you thought Pitino couldn’t (or wouldn’t) recruit within state borders, he goes and gets the state’s most highly-touted prospect. Johnson, 6-1, has all the attributes of a great point guard — excellent court vision, quickness, scoring ability and the ability to make his teammates better. And while it sounds like his shot selection might need some work, it’s safe to say that Pitino has built himself quite the stable of guards. Seriously, between Dorsey and Johnson, Minnesota is set at the point for quite a while. And with Nate Mason and McBrayer in the fold, it’s apparent what kind of team Pitino has constructed. And it’s going to be a fun one.