Gold in the Barn
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Several of the Gophers’ top targets are still anxious to see what a breakout July might do to their recruiting, but Armstrong’s Race Thompson feels pretty strong about three schools showing him the most interest right now.

Thompson, a four-star forward in the 2018 class, said Indiana, Minnesota and Iowa State have been recruiting him the hardest. Michigan is now out of the picture, he said after taking a commitment from another power forward recently.

Could a decision be coming soon for one of the state’s top prospects?

The 6-foot-8, 220-pound Thompson opens play Thursday in the Adidas Gauntlet Finale with D1 Minnesota in Spartanburg, S.C. Thompson said he could make a decision right after his AAU season concludes, which is after the Adidas Championships July 26-30 in Las Vegas.

“I’ll make my decision sometime after the AAU season, but I’m not sure when exactly,” he told the Star Tribune on Wednesday. “I’m not sure if I’ll take an official visit to (Minnesota and Iowa State), because I’ve already been there.”

The only official trip that Thompson has made so far is to Indiana in June. He also made an unofficial to Michigan last month. Thompson downplayed the significance of the Hoosiers being the only official so far, but he really was impressed with their campus in Bloomington.

“It was an official just because it was easier,” Thompson said. “I wasn’t going to take an unofficial and then come back again and take an official. So we just changed it. … That campus is a really nice campus. Good school. Great facilities. I like the new coaching staff a lot. Even with a new coach (Archie Miller) I think they’re still going to be a top team in the Big Ten. They’re pretty much always tough to beat and have some of the best fans in the country. I don’t think the culture will really change. Playing in front of that many people I don’t think you can’t (be excited).”

Thompson’s playing for the first time Thursday in the Adidas circuit with top 10 2019 forward Matthew Hurt, who missed the first eight games for D1 Minnesota with a broken hand. Not having hurt in the frontcourt with him earlier in AAU play forced him to become better defensively, Thompson said.

In the NBPA Top 100 camp last month, Thompson showed off his improved defense as one of the camp leaders in steals and blocks. During the high school season, Thompson was mostly known for his balanced scoring ability as a threat to score outside and in the paint.

Thompson is excited to have Hurt back healthy to help D1 Minnesota finish the summer strong.

“He’s a really good player,” Thompson said. “We have big expectations for the (Adidas) gauntlet. Teams are coming at us with everything they’ve got. Without Matthew pretty much everybody had to take their game up another notch. I just can’t do everything. So we had couple players step up. I had to play way better defense this summer. I’m guarding small forwards who can take me off the dribble, shoot the ball and do it all, so I got to sit down in my stance and play good defense. I tried to take my defense to another level this summer.”

NIKE PEACH JAM UPDATE

Howard Pulley opened the Nike Peach Jam with a 2-0 record after coming from behind to beat MoKan Elite and Team Melo on Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon. Gophers commit Daniel Oturu had strong performances in both games. The 6-10 senior center had 14 points and eight rebounds Wednesday, while helping to slow down MoKan’s 6-10 star Jontay Porter, the younger brother of Missouri freshman and potential 2018 lottery pick Michael Porter. Oturu also finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds against Team Melo.

Gophers targets Tre Jones and Gabe Kalscheur led Pulley in scoring. Jones had 30 points against Team Melo and Kalscheur scored 24 points with five three-pointers Wednesday against MoKan. His impact might not show up in the box score, but Gophers target Jarvis Thomas’ defense was stellar in both games as well.

NEW BIG MAN INTEREST

Gophers coach Richard Pitino and assistant Ben Johnson opened the July evaluation period Wednesday at the NY2LA tournament in Milwaukee watching 6-11 center Joe Hedstrom play with the Minnesota Comets. Hedstrom, a senior at Hopkins, doesn’t have a Minnesota offer. But he has seen interest pick up from the Gophers this summer. Pitino could be looking to add another center in the 2018 recruiting class to join Oturu, who can play both post positions. The Gophers lose seniors Reggie Lynch, Bakary Konate and Gaston Diedhiou after the 2017-18 season. Louisville’s 7-foot transfer Matz Stockman only has one year of eligibility after sitting out.