California 7-footer Dennis Evans III has been wooed by the Gophers men's basketball coaching staff for months, but it's finally time for him to see the program.
University of Minnesota students surely can't miss Evans walking around campus at nearly 7-2 and 230 pounds. After arriving Thursday night, he'll tour the school and athletic facilities Friday and attend Saturday's homecoming football game against Purdue.
"It's a tremendous opportunity to be able to speak to the coaching staff and everybody," Evans told the Star Tribune recently. "Building a relationship with them was a unique experience and I get to know more about their program and what they do."
Evans, ranked 13th nationally in the 2023 class by Rivals.com, 27th by 247Sports.com and 28th by PrepHoops.com, was visited last week by Gophers coach Ben Johnson and assistant Marcus Jenkins at Hillcrest High School in Riverside, Calif.
When speaking to Johnson and Jenkins throughout the recruiting process, they've told Evans he could develop into one of the top centers in college basketball with the Gophers.
Rolling Meadows guard Cameron Christie, the No. 1 senior in Illinois, has already committed to Minnesota, but Evans would be the program's highest-rated recruit since former NBA player and McDonald's All-American Kris Humphries of Hopkins in 2003.
"I'm looking for a program that can push me to be the best I can be on the floor," Evans said. "One that can continue to help me expand my game, so I can make the most of what I can do within my career."
Defending national champion Kansas offered Evans a scholarship this summer, but Minnesota and Texas Christian appear to be the favorites, according to his coaches.
Possibly the top shot blocker in high school hoops, Evans played on Team USA's U17 World Cup team that won a gold medal this summer. He averaged seven blocks per game as a junior at Hillcrest, including 10 or more blocks in five games.
"He's got stuff that not too many kids have," Hillcrest coach Jackson Wood said. "It's just a matter if he keeps progressing the way he has. He's only been playing for 3-4 years. He just keeps getting better every day."
Evans' father, Dennis II, is also seven feet tall. The younger Evans grew 10 inches in two years when he started playing hoops for the first time in the seventh and eighth grades growing up in San Bernardino. By the time he started high school in the ninth grade, he was 6-11, wore size 16 shoes, and had a 7-7 wingspan.
"A lot of his growth goes to the team he has around him," Wood said. "His travel ball coach and his family is involved with this development. Sky's the limit for him. It's exciting to see."
The Gophers first started recruiting Evans last year after watching him play in the same showcase as former Colony High School (Calif.) standout Jaden Henley, who is now a freshman at the U. They played together for Team Inland's AAU program in San Bernardino.
Inland AAU coach Elvert "Kool-Aid" Perry said Henley having a solid experience in Minnesota so far has helped the Gophers in their pursuit of Evans, who bonded well with Johnson and Jenkins in the recruiting process.
"Minnesota has an absolute chance to land Dennis Evans," Perry said. "Even if he were the best player in the country, it wouldn't change. That's honest. It would not change. He's not worried about the wins and losses. Ben can coach. We did our homework."