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Recruiting: Ahmad Gilbert Brings More Athleticism to the Gophers

The Gophers have another good athlete in Ahmad Gilbert, who will join a recruiting class long on potential. It'll just be a matter of harnessing it into a winner.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

With his two latest recruits, Richard Pitino has been opportunistic (we recently covered Jordan Murphy, who reopened his recruitment after Shaka Smart left VCU). Now, Pitino's landed another recruit who reopened his recruiting after a coaching change.  Incoming freshman Ahmad Gilbert was committed to George Mason, until they fired head coach Paul Hewitt. The coaching change out east led to Gilbert reopening his recruitment, ultimately landing at Minnesota. Gilbert (Constitution High School - Philadelphia, PA) is a 6'6" lefty who has great potential and upside.

Offensively, he's improved his ballhandling according to ESPN. Gilbert plays high on the drive and penetrates most effectively in a straight line. His dribble is also high, so he'll need to tighten up his ballhandling, especially playing against better competition in the Big Ten. If he can develop in that area, his length should be a huge asset when finishing around the basket against more physical defenders.

ESPN recruiting wonders about his overall decision making against defensive pressure.  He won't play if he doesn't make good decisions with the ball, and defenses will be well schooled on his tendencies.

Gilbert's a good shooter, if a bit streaky at times. His body twists on his jump shot to the point where he nearly shoots with his left side facing the basket.  He can make shots under duress, with little separation, but he's most effective when he has time to set his feet and wind the shot.  Of course, most players are most effective when they can set their feet, but still. Gilbert can be glued to the three-point line a bit and at this point he's not consistent enough from that range to play like that, according to ESPN recruiting.

Watching him, I wonder if Pitino will have him develop a post game.  His size makes him larger than most wings in the Big Ten and he may be able to exploit mismatches against smaller defenders if Pitino plays him at the two.  With his wingspan and touch around the basket, it's a matter of developing the skill set.

Like most incoming freshman, he'll need to add strength and refine his game a bit more (especially if he expands his game to the post).  He absolutely has the size and initial athletic ability to play in the Big Ten.  Of the recruits Pitino has coming in, Gilbert might be more of a work in progress.  It's unclear if he'll play right away as that will depend on how the roster shakes out initially.  The class is guard heavy and that's where they'll need the most firepower right away, potentially keeping Gilbert off the court.

Of course, size and athleticism can't be taught.  If he puts in the work, Gilbert can really elevate his game.  At 6'6" and with his long arms he can be effective around the rim and on the offensive glass. Pitino will just need to move him from the three point line a bit, and encourage him to use his physical gifts. Defensively it's unclear how he'll perform.  In college, his size makes him one of the larger wing defenders.  The physical tools are there, but it's just more about picking up on defensive concepts and guarding high level athletes. Gilbert will absolutely guard twos and threes in college, but he probably doesn't have the quickness to guard the point.

Gilbert is a good get for Pitino and he's been opportunistic with a couple of his recruits after coaching changes (George Mason, VCU).  After Gilbert reopened his recruitment he also netted an offer from Wichita State.  George Mason and Wichita State aren't Duke and North Carolina, but they're solid programs and the Gophers beat them out for Gilbert's services.

Pitino's 2015 class seems long on wing athleticism, with major upside potential.  Now it'll just be a matter of development.