As Minnesota comes off of a successful season, culminating in an NIT Championship, Richard Pitino and Company will look to move forward and take the next step with the program. Minnesota's Class of 2014 is ranked 71st in the country, and eighth in the Big Ten. Those numbers do not seem very good, but when one accounts for the fact that it was Pitino's first full year recruiting at the program, it is a very good first step.
Nate Mason Jr.
The three-star point guard from Jacksonville, Fla. is the first player we will take a look at here. Mason was 247Sports' 135th ranked player in the 2014 Top247, and the 25th ranked point guard. He picked Minnesota over Virginia and Kansas State. From his film, he appears to be a scoring point guard, which is good news for the Gophers after they lost last season's second leading scorer, Austin Hollins, to graduation. Mason has drawn strong comparisons to Andrew Gouldelock, the former College of Charleston standout, and another high-caliber scorer. When asked what his role will be with Minnesota, Mason replied, "I'm trying to be the best team player... and do everything I can to help this team win.".
The three-star shooting guard comes to Minnesota as a junior college transfer after playing his freshman and sophomore seasons at Florida's Chipola College. Originally, Morris was a top 100 recruit in 2012 and committed to the University of South Carolina, but he was academically ineligible to attend the university. He was the tenth best junior college player on 247Sports' rankings, and it's easy to see why. He averaged 14.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last season, from the shooting guard position. His six-foot-five frame is an advantage in that he can also play small forward if needed. Like Mason, he is potentially one of the players Minnesota will look to to replace Austin Hollins' offensive output. The one problem Minnesota had with Morris when he arrived was his weight, which was only 175 pounds. To try and improve on this, Morris ate. And ate. And ate. To the tune of six meals a day this summer. Morris chose Minnesota over UAB and Seton Hall
The three-star power forward out of Bothell, Wash. will have, perhaps, one of the biggest personalities on the Gophers this season. Don't believe me? Take a look at his Twitter avatar. Martin also brings a big game to the court. For a Gophers team that will need all the height they can get, playing in the B1G, Martin is a welcome addition. At six-foot-eight, the lanky forward can grab his fair share of rebounds, and also run the floor like a guard. He's drawn comparisons to teammate Joey King. Martin chose Minnesota over Pitt and Florida State.
The final two recruits in Minnesota's Class of 2014 will look to add a little international flavor to the team, starting with three-star center Bakary Konate. Originally from Mali, Konate comes to the Gophers after spending a year at Sunrise Basketball Academy in Wichita, Kan, though he did not appear in any games. His high school basketball was played in Grand Canary Island, Spain, where he started all four years, averaging 7.5 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. Konate comes from a basketball family, as his brother, Ibrahim, played basketball at Boston University. It is unknown how Kontate's game will translate to the United States, but as basketball coaches often say, "You can't teach size". Konate has drawn comparisons to Gorgui Dieng, who Pitino's father coached at Louisville.
Minnesota's final recruit in the Class of 2014 is three-star power forward Gaston Diedhiou. Diedhiou, ranked #353 in the Class of 2014 by 247Sports, hails from Sengal. Diedhiou's status at the University is questionable, at best, however after he was denied admission in August after not being able to pass the English Proficiency Exam, thus making him ineligible for admission. Diedhiou hopes to retake the exam and be able enroll for the spring semester, but so far there has been no news on that. We will have to wait to see how this situation unfolds.