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Minnesota Basketball Targeting Promising In-State Prospects

The Gophers have their eyes in-state for the Class of 2017, but top targets like Jericho Sims have continued to pick up impressive offers.

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Richard Pitino and the Minnesota Gophers are on the lookout for their first commit for 2017.

It’s been likely that that commit may come from within the borders of the state of Minnesota, but the local targets have continued to pick up increasingly impressive offers. The most glaring example is Jericho Sims, a four-star forward out of Minneapolis.

The 6’9” Sims has exploded since the start of the AAU season. The Gophers were considered the favorite when they offered due to being the hometown school and his family ties with the program (Sims’ dad, Charles, played for Minnesota in the 1970s). However, Pitino and Minnesota have gained plenty of competition for Sims services since offering the legacy. While Minnesota originally was a front runner, that isn’t so clear now that Florida, Iowa State, Texas, UConn and Xavier, among others, have all offered Sims. But the biggest one came on Monday when Kansas extended an offer.

When one national power gets in the mix, the others typically take notice and the Minneapolis Star Tribune is reporting that North Carolina has shown an increased interest in Sims. The Tar Heels haven’t offered yet, but it could be on the horizon.

Minnesota is still ahead in 247Sports’ Crystal Ball, receiving 50 percent of the predictions, with Texas following at 33 percent. Sims has a visit to Texas scheduled for Aug. 25, according to the Star Tribune.

In an interview with the Pioneer Press, Sims dad said he’s letting his son decide his future.

“(The Gophers are) going through some problems right now, but they will get better,” Charles Sims told Marcus Fuller of the Pioneer Press in May. “(Assistant coach) Ben Johnson is the one I talk to most of the time. Ben and I go back a long ways. I talk to Ben about (playing there), but it’s up to Jericho what he wants to do.”

Sims growth has been steady throughout high school, literally, as he entered high school as a 6’1” freshman. His athleticism remains his best quality, but he has also gained muscle and worked on rounding out his game.

“I think I’m starting to show more of what I can do,” Sims told the Pioneer Press. “It’s all about intensity, really. I feel like it’s a lot of natural growth. Once I get a little things down, I think I can really (excel).”

Another 2017 Gopher target, Theo John, recently spoke to Chris Monter of Gopher Hole about his top six schools.

John, a 6’9” big man out of Champlin Park, is considering Minnesota, California, Illinois, Marquette, Oklahoma and Purdue.

John told Gopher Hole what he liked about each school. For Minnesota he said, “It’s home. I would be able to work with my people and people that I have been working with so far and being able to play for your hometown would be pretty cool.”

John said he has scheduled a visit to California and Marquette and is still deciding where to take his third official visit and when he will make his announcement.

“Relationship with coaches is huge,” John said of how he will decide. “Place that believes in me. Place that is going to develop me, both on and off the court, and lead me with a good set in life, whether that be through playing basketball in the NBA, which is my dream, or with a good degree.”

While there is plenty of high level talent in-state for Minnesota to capitalize on, it’s become clear that there’s going to be quite a bit of competition from some marquee programs across the country for said talent. If Pitino can land either of these recruits it would be a huge win for the Gophers in their attempt to turn the program around.