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One of the most important recruiting visits this summer for the Gophers basketball team came Wednesday when it hosted North Dakota player of the year Tommy Ahneman, one of the fastest rising senior big men in the country.

"It was so nice," Ahneman said. "I can't wait to go back for an official to really see and go in depth with all of it."

Ahneman, a 6-11, 240-pound four-star prospect at West Fargo, was in town for an unofficial visit that turned into the latest in a string of Big Ten offers, including Iowa, Nebraska, Penn State and Northwestern.

The Gophers were his first major conference unofficial visit, but he also has trips planned this month to see Nebraska (June 17), Creighton (same week) and Wisconsin (June 26). He hopes to also return to Minnesota for an official visit the last week of August.

"For Minnesota, the main thing was they want me to play how I play now, where I can go down low or play up top," said Ahneman, who saw a video of All-Big Ten forward Dawson Garcia on his visit.

"It's kind of like how I do everything now. Not to say I would walk in and do everything like Dawson because he's a great player. But I feel like I could possibly start to replicate him or try to be better."

A highlight on the visit was getting to meet Garcia and watch him during individual workouts. Official practice for the Gophers doesn't start until Monday.

"That was cool to watch him do what he does," Ahneman said. "I kind of just compared myself to him a little bit. After that, we just talked to coach [Ben Johnson] for the rest of the visit."

Ahneman's connection to Minnesota is on his mother's side. Erin Ditty grew up in Hastings and played on the school's basketball Class AA state title team in 1996. Ahneman's grandparents had season tickets to Gophers basketball, so he still attended games at Williams Arena growing up in North Dakota.

Playing for Howard Pulley 17U team this spring, Ahneman proved to be a dominant inside presence with an expanding all-around game. He went from two Division I offers (North Dakota and Portland) entering the AAU season to now six high major offers and counting as of Thursday.

After growing a couple inches and building strength in the weight room, Ahneman saw huge gains in his impact on the floor this year.

Fargo West won the North Dakota Class 2A title, while he averaged 20 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks as a junior. Ahneman's confidence carried over to the spring AAU season. Pulley's man in the middle opened eyes on the Nike circuit, most notably in front of coaches in Indianapolis last month.

"I'm embracing it and enjoying it," Ahneman said. "Howard Pulley has been great in lifting me up and helping me to get where I am now. [Pulley coach] Eric Bronaugh has been amazing and keeping me in contact with coaches.

"It's been nice to back it up with my play and show the coaches what they want to see. Before I was a just a big kid, but now I can score at all three levels. I can defend wherever you want me to. It's just been a big growing experience."