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When Will the Minnesota Golden Gophers Get Back in the NBA Draft?

Minnesota's been left out of the NBA draft for over a decade. Who might be the next Golden Gopher who could be drafted?

Thomas Joseph-USA TODAY Sports

It's been over a decade since Minnesota's had someone drafted. 2004, to be exact, is the last time a Gopher player has been picked in either the first or second round. Over the last 12 years Minnesota hasn't been terribly close to producing a first round pick, but their incoming recruiting class could change things.

If you're wondering, Kris Humphries was the last Gopher player to be drafted. Humphries went 14th overall to the Utah Jazz. Humphries is still in league, but only played a year at Minnesota. In fact, Humphries originally committed to Duke before backing out and staying home instead. Statistically, he was fantastic that year as he would go on to averaging 21.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. That being said, though, it didn't translate to wins as Minnesota finished 12-18 overall.

So there's not much recent draft history for the Gophers and their on court success recently has matched their recent draft history. While Minnesota has struck out in the past, the Gophers now have a loaded recruiting class and a couple interesting prospects already on the roster. Let's take a look at them.

Jordan Murphy

Murphy had a tremendous freshman season. He was a bright light in a dark season. Murphy averaged 11.6 points and eight rebounds per game. His season earned him a place on the Big Ten All-Freshman team.

Murphy's an elite athlete who plays bigger than his size. When he decides to attack the rim, not many can stay with him. His ability to finish strong above the rim should serve him well if he goes to the next level. To make it in the NBA though, Murphy needs to refine his game. Early on he got into foul trouble too quickly and much of it amounted to silly fouls, or just getting caught out of position on occasion.

Honing his jumper and developing a few go to back-to-the-basket moves should also be on his list. Fortunately, Murphy has the athletic ability to play in the NBA, but he'll need some polish.

Amir Coffey

Coffey is perhaps the Golden Gopher with the most NBA potential. He has a great combination of size (6'7" and a shade under 200 pounds) and skill. He projects as the prototypical point-forward. He'll need to prove he can do it at the next level and he'll need to add strength, but he has the talent to play in the NBA. Maybe even more than Murphy, Coffey could flourish at the next level. Of course, Eric Curry and Michael Hurt are also top prospects who could develop into NBA talent.

Overall

Minnesota's been absent from the draft for a number of years. Much of it has to do with lack of talent, but now the tide appears to have turned (as far as the talent part goes). The program's a bit of a mess off the court and we'll see if that impacts on court performance and development when the season tips off this fall.

Amir Coffey and Jordan Murphy appear to have the most NBA-potential on the roster. Each have much to work on, but they both have the talent and athletic ability to move up to the next level. Whether they move up in the next year or two depends largely on how quickly they develop and build on their potential.