A roster spot opened up at Minnesota this week. As has been the case with the Gophers lately, it came in the form of bad news.
On Tuesday Charles Buggs, who was supposed to be a senior leader for the Gophers this season, announced his intent to graduate this summer and transfer elsewhere to play out his final year of eligibility. As long as he completes his degree this summer, the 6'9" Buggs will be able to take the court with another jersey on this fall.
Buggs' departure, while a loss on the court, clears up a scholarship spot for the rebuilding Gophers. Coach Richard Pitino could still add a player in the 2016 class, but it's so late in the process that it's likely the open scholarship will be carried over to next year.
Buggs' transfer, along with Akeem Spriggs' upcoming graduation, would leave the Gophers with two scholarships for 2017. They'll have plenty of options to fill those spots, as Minnesota's high school class of 2017 is loaded with talent. One of those talented targets, 6'0" guard McKinley Wright, was on campus for an unofficial visit on Tuesday. The Champlin, Minnesota native is ranked as a three-star recruit and the fifth-best player in Minnesota by 247Sports.
Wright told Gophers Illustrated that the visit went well, as he met with the coaches, checked out the facilities and shot around in Williams Arena.
"The visit to Minnesota today was really cool," McKinley told Gophers Illustrated on Tuesday. "I got a better feel for Minnesota and the coaching staff. The coaches are very cool outside of basketball, and they care about me as a person. The program is also moving in the right direction. So that's a plus. They are also building a new facility as well."
The coaches have made Wright feel like a primary target, but the players are also doing their part. Wright told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that incoming freshmen Amir Coffey and Michael Hurt have both talked to him about the possibility of playing together in the future.
However, the recruiting process is far from over. Wright told Gophers Illustrated that he is most frequently contacted by Minnesota, Dayton, Iowa State and Xavier, and he will take an unofficial visit to Iowa State on June 12. A number of other Division I schools have offered Wright, including Illinois and Nebraska in the Big Ten.
A commitment from Wright may also play a role in the recruitment of Theo John. John, a 6'8" four-star forward, is Wright's teammate at Champlin Park. The Gophers have an offer out to John, who also has offers from Illinois, Iowa, Marquette, Nebraska and Oklahoma, among others.
Joining Wright and John as top-tier Minnesota prospects in the class of 2017 are Gary Trent Jr., Jericho Sims and Goanar Mar, Ishmael El-Amin and Brad Davison.
Some of the out-of-state 2017 recruits the Gophers are targeting are Lance Thomas (Norcross, GA), Darius Perry (Powder Springs, GA), Isaiah Washington (Bronx, NY), Terrence Lewis (Milwaukee, WI) and Sidney Wilson (Bronx, NY).
Either way, after last season's disappointing finish and a decent amount of turnover on the team's roster, Minnesota will need to hit the recruiting trail hard if they want to turn things around in the near future.