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With college basketball’s most critical recruiting period approaching, Gophers coach Richard Pitino had a clear message for Rochester Mayo’s Gabe Madsen during an unofficial visit last month.

“He told me they needed someone in the 2020 class to get the committing started,” the 6-6 Madsen said. “He just wanted me to be that guy to kick it off.”

Minnesota’s in-state crop for 2020 is so deep, the Gophers barely knew Madsen before he stood out at one of their team camps in mid-June. When Madsen received his scholarship offer that weekend, that made it six in-state players with Gophers offers, just in this class.

July is a critical month for Pitino’s Gophers, who have several local 2020 targets like Madsen they will track around the country starting this week. When the dust settles during the busiest basketball recruiting period of the year, the Gophers should be able to tap into a talent pool that is arguably the state’s deepest in more than a decade.

No longer just a hockey hotbed, Minnesota could have 20-plus players sign with Division I hoops programs in the 2020 class, the most since 2009, according to Prep Hoops national recruiting analyst Ryan James.

“We have four kids ranked in the national top-100 and seven kids with high-major offers who are ranked in multiple top-200 lists nationally,” James said. “It’s been a long time if ever that Minnesota has been that deep.”

Minnehaha Academy’s Jalen Suggs, Prior Lake’s Dawson Garcia, Park Center’s Dain Dainja, East Ridge’s Ben Carlson and Hopkins’ Kerwin Walton were the 2020 prospects from the state with Gophers offers before Madsen.

The Gophers, who have three scholarships available, are probably not done offering locals in 2020. They’re taking a hard look at Rochester Mayo point guard Mason Madsen, Gabe’s twin brother, and Eastview center Steven Crowl during this evaluation period.

If the Gophers land multiple 2020 in-state recruits — as they did with Amir Coffey and Michael Hurt in 2016, and with Daniel Oturu, Gabe Kalscheur and Jarvis Omersa in 2018 — that would lessen the blow of Pitino getting shut out by in-state targets in 2017 and again last year.

This spring, Rochester John Marshall’s Matthew Hurt became the fourth Minnesotan to sign with Duke in the last six years. Pitino faces another tough battle for the state’s two five-star 2020 prospects in Suggs and Garcia, who won gold medals representing USA basketball internationally this summer.

Suggs, a 6-5 combo guard, told last month while playing at the U19 World Cup that he probably would make his decision in August. Minnesota assistant Rob Jeter watched Suggs in Greece, but the Gophers aren’t the leading candidate for him. Suggs recently said Gonzaga is “definitely at the top” as the only school so far to which he has made an official visit.

The 6-11 Garcia enjoyed his unofficial visit to Minnesota’s campus in late June, but his recruiting has skyrocketed since winning MVP honors at the U18 FIBA 3-on-3 World Cup in Mongolia. Duke’s interest is rising, and Garcia already has blue blood offers from Kansas and North Carolina.

Garcia is part of D1 Minnesota’s undefeated AAU team, but he has mono and won’t get to play in front of college coaches this weekend at the Adidas event in Alabama.

Carlson, the featured frontcourt player for D1 Minnesota minus Garcia, appreciates the attention he’s gotten from the Gophers.

“They’ve been recruiting me since my freshman year,” the 6-9 Carlson said. “It just shows how much they want me at Minnesota. My relationship with the coaching staff has grown in the past couple months. It’s definitely going in the right direction.”

When recruiting local talent, Pitino can point to Coffey, who blossomed for the Gophers as a junior last season and signed a two-way contract with the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday. Also last season Oturu and Kalscheur were starters as freshmen.

Could Walton follow Coffey as the next Gophers player from Hopkins?

“I have a pretty good relationship with the coaching staff,” Walton said. “I can see myself there, honestly. I believe I would fit in there. I feel like I could come in there and be used properly being able to play with Gabe, Daniel and other guys.”

Pitino was able to watch several local targets at the Gophers team camp in June. Now the Gophers coach and his staff will travel to shoe sponsored events during this month’s recruiting period.

With numerous options in Minnesota’s deep 2020 class, Pitino hopes to turn at least one of these recruits into a future Gopher.