What happens when one of the top 2018 big men in the country enter the AAU season already committed to a school?
Cretin-Derham Hall center Daniel Oturu is the lone recruit for Richard Pitino's next recruiting class at Minnesota, but he hasn't stopped working on improving his game and trying to convince other top prospects in the state from going to the U.
The 6-foot-10 Oturu, who has been a force for Howard Pulley this summer, is now ranked No. 41 in his class by Scout.com after averaging 12 points and 10 rebounds for the No. 1 team in the Nike EYBL circuit. Pulley is vying for a Nike Peach Jam Championship Wednesday through Sunday in North Augusta, S.C.
Oturu talked about recently about his summer, trying to improve his jumper, recruiting others to his future program and more in a recent Star Tribune Q&A.
ON NBPA TOP 100 CAMP: “It was a real fun experience learning from former and current NBA players, not only about basketball but just growing as a better person for society and making the world a better place. From a basketball aspect, they talked to us about how to be a better player every day. Even though you won’t have practice or games there’s always a way to make yourself better. From a life aspect, it just taught us to stay away from the bad things and make good choices. They taught us about having a top five. Five people in your life that influence your life in good ways. They taught us a lot of stuff. It was really good.
PLAYING WITH MATTHEW HURT AT TOP 100: “Me and Matthew are really good friends. He’s one of my guys. It’s been like that for a little bit. (Last) weekend we got a lot closer from being on the same team. It came up talking about (both playing for Gophers). His brother (Michael) plays there. And I just talked to him about it would be tight if he came. It would be really cool to play with him in college, too. He’s a top 5 player in his (2019) class. He’s just a really great all-around player. He can play defense, shoot the ball and score at all three levels. It would be really cool to play with him.
WHAT HE’S WORKING ON THIS SUMMER: “I’ve been trying to work on my face-up game and perfecting scoring off the dribble more. That’s been a focal point for me. Each day that goes by I’m continuing to get better at that. Just readying myself for the high school season and the college season after next year. (Howard Pulley coach Antwan Harris) has been telling me I need to work on my mid-range shot and get more confidence in it. He gives me free rein and the opportunity to shoot that a lot this summer has been giving me a lot more confidence. It’s making me believe in myself that every time I shoot it I can make it.
ON HOWARD PULLEY’S SUCCESS: “We lost a lot of star power in Gary Trent Jr. (Duke), Brad Davison (Wisconsin) and Theo John (Marquette). A lot of people thought we weren’t going to be as good as we were last year. So we kind of just used that as fuel to our fire to prove people wrong that we could be even better than we were last year. This year is less star focused and more like a team. We are winning games as a team and coming together. There are no egos and nobody feels like they are above the team. We have one common goal to win the Peach Jam.
PLAYING AAU WITH JARVIS THOMAS: “It’s really fun playing with him. He’s an energetic player. He brings a lot of energy. He plays tough. He brings that toughness. He makes exciting plays that make me go, ‘Wow, I can’t believe he just did that.’ It’s cool. I’ve known him for a long time. He’s one of my good friends. It’s just really cool to be playing with him for the first time ever. Having him in the frontcourt is really good. I’ve known him since our freshman year. He only lives 10 minutes away from me. So we’d hang out a lot. He’s grown as a basketball player throughout high school. He’s got a lot of potential. He’s young, too (only 16). His ceiling is really high.
ABOUT GOPHERS OFFERING THOMAS RECENTLY: “I was really happy they finally offered him. I felt like he deserved it a while ago. I’ve been working on him even more now since he has an opportunity now to go there. It would be really cool to play with him in college, too.”
ON RECRUITING HIS PULLEY TEAMMATES: “I kind of pick my moments. At the end of the day, it’s their decision where they want to go. Whatever is best for them and their family. No matter what they choose I’ll always support them, because they’re my brothers. Every now and then I’ll say: ‘Hey, don’t forget about the U.’ Or I’ll say, ‘We can really do something special here and make our city proud.’ It’s a really good goal that I have that we can play well together here at Minnesota and make people here proud – to put Minnesota on the map.”
ON TRYING TO GET RACE THOMPSON TO JOIN HIM: “Race is also one of my good buddies. I’m really close with a lot of players in our class. I’m good friends with all of them. We all love to compete against each other. We all know it’s just a game and we want what’s best for each other.
ON HOWARD PULLEY-D1 MINNESOTA RIVALRY: “There’s no bad blood. We’re all good friends. We’re always talking about who’s better. We say that ‘we’ll be you.’ They say that they would beat us. We know what the real answer is that we’d beat them. That’s the thing, though. We’ll never play and see who is the better team. At the end of the day, we all have love for each other and respect the game. We just want what’s best for everyone. We don’t want to see each other fail. They are on the Adidas circuit. We’re on the Nike circuit. They’re going around the country doing their own thing and putting it down for Minnesota. We’re doing the same thing representing, too. It’s cool to there are two programs well respected around the country doing things for the state”
ON GOPHERS FACILITIES: “I haven’t been up there in awhile. But when I was last there it was pretty cool to see that it could look like and what life at the U will be when I get there. I’m excited. It’s also great to have something brand new that players can be excited about.”
ON EXPECTATIONS FOR PITINO’S TEAM in 2017-18: “No one really expected them to be as good as they were this year. They didn’t realize their talent level was that high. The year before they were really young. I think that they overlooked the Gophers this year. They turned some heads and put themselves on the map. People are not sleeping on them now. They’re looking at them like playing Minnesota is going to be a battle and they bring it and their players play hard until the end. Now they have a target on their back. But they will play even better with a target on their back and make an even deeper run in the (NCAA tournament).”
ON BIG TEN TITLE CONTENDERS: “I believe it. I believe in them that they can do really great things this year. I think they can win the Big Ten title. I just don’t see many teams that can beat them. Michigan State is tough, too. But the Gophers have the same team minus one player (Akeem Springs). I feel like they can replace one player with two good players in (freshmen) Isaiah Washington and Jamir Harris. They can bring a lot to the table, too.
TWIN CITIES PRO-AM: “I’ve thought about playing, but I haven’t really looked into it. It’s cool that they’re playing in it. Gophers fans in the state can get a first-hand look at who their point guard (Washington) will be in a couple years.”
GROWING FROM LAST YEAR: “I’ve grown three inches. I’ve gotten longer. Physically I’ve added more weight. I’m 6-10 and 211 pounds. Going into my freshman year hopefully I can be 220. It’s going to take a lot of work. But I want to be physically ready to play right away, especially playing at my position. I have to play against big men who are big and strong. I have to be able to compete with them. I’ve got to be able to add more weight but keep my lateral quickness and movement.”
ON PLAYING WITH 7-FOOT TRANSFER MATZ STOCKMAN: “It will help. I know he played at Louisville. So he was under another great coach Rick Pitino, a legendary coach. I have no excuse not to learn anything. I think competing against him would make me better. He’ll be a senior so he’ll have a (mature) body. He’ll be physically strong. Going against someone that all (7-1), physically tough and aggressive will help me a lot as a freshman. It’ll help me grow as a player because I’ll be playing against guys just like him every night. So I feel like It can help me a lot; just his knowledge of the game from what he’s learned in four years of college.”