It took longer than usual, but the Gophers finally gave us their annual summer facepalm. This one came at the expense of the most highly-touted local recruit in years and the top recruit of Richard Pitino’s 2015 class.
If you haven’t seen the news, it’s your run-of-the-mill “local kid with severe heart condition plays for years without incident but is surprisingly denied clearance by U medical staff after he is signed and arrives on campus.” You know, standard Gophers stuff.
At first blush, and according to the initial statement from the U, which was all rosy and “aw shucks, too bad he can’t play but hey at least he won’t die on the court, right?”, it appeared that the program had swooped in and saved Johnson from himself, while altruistically offering him a scholarship to sit near the bench and be some sort of grad assistant look-alike for the rest of his life. Bummer, right? We lost our top recruit; nothing out of the ordinary.
Ah, but it turns out that maybe it’s not so cut and dry, at least according to a report from Amelia Rayno today. Turns out she got a hold of the Johnson family, and they’re none too happy about the U taking it upon themselves to tell Jarvis that his dream of being a basketball player isn’t going to happen anymore.
See, it appears that the U didn’t really indicate to Jarvis or his family that his previous health problems would be any sort of hinderance to his recruitment. And why should they be? He’s played for four years at the high school level without incident. They misguided the family until he signed a letter of intent, then pulled the rug out from under him. Strike one.
Perhaps even more ludicrous, the U has been running him through tests for the past TWO MONTHS, without giving any indication that anything was wrong. According to the family, “it seemed like it was thumbs up for everything.” Oh, and Pitino didn’t show up to the meeting where the news that Johnson could essentially get bent was dropped. Strike two.
My favorite brain teaser in this whole thing, I think, is the one where the U didn’t “know enough about the situation to clear him and to feel comfortable about his condition.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think that’s how it works. Isn’t the burden of proof traditionally on the prosecution? In other words, doesn’t the U have to somehow show that Johnson’s health issue is a clear roadblock for him staying healthy on the court? I’m sorry, but “not knowing enough” doesn’t cut it here. Not when the kid has played his entire high school career incident-free and has shown nothing to indicate that it’s somehow going to change. Joey King could be walking around carrying Ebola, but until the U proves that he’s unhealthy, he gets to play.
Look, the University of Minnesota is free to admit and deny whoever it wants into it’s sports programs. That’s not the issue here. The issue is that they, in good faith, recruited Jarvis Johnson under the guise that health was of no concern, at least according to the family, when apparently it was A HUGE CONCERN. Enough to deny him a place on the court. They ran him through tests without indicating that anything was up. Then, months after the poor kid has signed with his hometown team, they tell him, sorry, but turns out you can’t play, LOL GOOD LUCK. And then Pitino isn’t even there to tell him the bad news.