After a lack of guard depth late last season, Richard Pitino and the Minnesota Gophers are building their backcourt in the 2017 recruiting class.
The Gophers most recently landed Jamir Harris, a 3-star guard out of Elizabeth, New Jersey. The 6’2” Harris is listed as the 11th-best combo guard in the nation by 247sports. Harris chose Minnesota last week over offers from Alabama, Creighton and Stanford, among others.
Harris may project as a shooting guard in the future, as he joins Isaiah Washington as the only commits for Minnesota’s 2017 recruiting class. Washington, a four-star point guard out of New York, became Minnesota’s first Class of 2017 commit when he gave Pitino a verbal on September 11 after visiting Minneapolis.
The Minnesota coaching staff targeted the 6-foot Washington early, allowing them to beat out Georgia Tech, Providence, Rutgers, Seton Hall and VCU. 247sports ranks Washington as the No. 65 player in the nation, the No. 2 player in the state of New York and the 14th-best point guard.
The Gophers also recently offered a guard in the Class of 2018.
A.J. Green, a 4-star point guard out of Cedar Falls, Iowa, received an offer after having a big summer for the Iowa Barnstormers. Green’s dad, Kyle Green, is an assistant coach for the University of Northern Iowa basketball team. However, Kyle Green is also a Minneapolis native and played basketball at Hamline University in Saint Paul before becoming an assistant coach at a player of Minnesota schools.
Minnesota is likely looking to build guard depth after how the 2015-16 season ended. The late-season suspensions of guards Kevin Dorsey, Nate Mason and Dupree McBrayer left the Gophers severely lacking options in the backcourt. At times it even forced the Gophers to play games without any scholarship guards available.
Mason, a junior who averaged 13.8 points and 4.5 assists per game last season prior to his suspension, is back and will lead the Gophers the next two seasons. McBrayer also returns after starting 14 games as a freshman and is a good candidate to increase his role.
However, Dorsey transferred following his freshman season and leaves Minnesota with roles to fill heading into the future. The Gophers hope Washington and Harris, as well as 2016-17 freshmen Amir Coffey and Brady Rudrud, leave them with backcourt options over the next several years. If things don’t go as planned, however, Pitino is working on making sure he’ll have plenty of options in the near future to add some valuable depth.