The Gophers won’t have their top recruit until late July, but Isaiah Ihnen will get an opportunity to represent his country in the meantime.
Ihnen, a 6-foot-9 incoming freshman from Germany, is the highest ranked prospect in Richard Pitino’s 2019 recruiting class, but he told the Star Tribune he needs to wait until the last week of July to join the team.
The U follows a policy that international students can only be admitted 30 days before the start of the semester.
Although he’ll miss the bulk of summer practice with the Gophers, Ihnen is spending his summer training with Germany’s U20 national team. The squad is currently playing in Italy to prepare for FIBA’s U20 European Championships July 13-21 in Tel Aviv.
Playing for the International Basketball Academy in Munich (IBAM) last season, Ihnen averaged 12.5 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists and shot 35 percent from three-point range in Germany’s top basketball league for U19 players. He was rated as a four-star prospect and the No. 96th player in the final 2019 class rankings by 247Sports.com.
“Isaiah has good size, length and athleticism for a versatile forward,” 247Sports.com recruiting director Evan Daniels told the Star Tribune. “I think he’s a multi-positional defender who plays hard. He’s a good athlete. He’s able to stretch the floor – and there’s a lot of upside here. I think he can be a mismatch problem. With his physical tools, he’s a really good prospect.”
Ihnen was born and raised in Germany, but he’s of African descent. His mother is Eritrean and his father is Senegalese. He didn’t start playing basketball until age 14, but he fell in love with the game watching Kevin Durant, his favorite NBA player.
Still just 18 years old, Ihnen certainly has room for a lot of growth, but his size and length for a wing at 6-9, 210 pounds with a 7-4 wingspan already got the attention of NBA scouts and ESPN draft analyst Mike Schmitz in Germany in January. The Gophers still haven’t had a player drafted since 2004 after Thursday's NBA Draft, but Ihnen’s on the NBA's radar coming into college.
20-plus NBA scouts made the 15-minute drive from the Audi Dome to IBAM to get eyes on Josh Obiesie. Low level here in what’s equivalent to the German 4th division but still a good opportunity for Obiesie to show his talent. Also interested to see Isaiah Ihnen. pic.twitter.com/dTINT2NOS6— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) January 26, 2019
At IBAM practice in Munich watching 6-6 guard Josh Obiesie and 6-9 forward Isaiah Ihnen. The 18-year-old Ihnen has a great physical profile with long arms, wide shoulders and impressive fluidity. pic.twitter.com/1KSHen2X6d— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) January 24, 2019
Figuring out when Ihnen will arrive in the U.S. and on campus has been complex with compliance and the international student visa policy. Still, the Gophers expect him to be able to practice in late July and play on their foreign tour from Aug. 3-13 in Italy.
“I really believe if he were going to high school in the states he’s probably a top 50 recruit,” Pitino said earlier. “We need a versatile wing. We got that. He’s somebody who is going to be a terrific player down the road. Loves basketball. High, High ceiling. So, we’re excited to get him on campus.”