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Five-star California 7-footer Dennis Evans could've transferred to any prep school in the country for his senior year.

Evans turned down teams that produced No. 1 NBA draft picks and won national championships to stay at Riverside Hillcrest to finish high school. He's different.

But the 7-1 shot-blocking sensation is strongly considering taking his talents far from home to play college basketball.

The 17-year-old big man prodigy from Southern California is being recruited by defending national champion Kansas. But Ben Johnson and the Gophers are serious contenders to land arguably the top rim protector in high school hoops.

"He's definitely going to visit Minnesota," Evans' AAU coach, Elvert "Kool-Aid" Perry, told the Star Tribune. "He might end up going to Minnesota to be completely honest. Ben and [assistant Marcus Jenkins] have done a tremendous job recruiting Dennis."

Evans, who blocked 16 shots in a game last season, ranks 13th and 27th in the 2023 class by and, respectively.

The Gophers finished last in the Big Ten in Johnson's inaugural season in 2021-22, but Johnson and his coaching staff have successfully sold a bright future for his program to prospects near and far from Minnesota.

The U's 2023 class currently has started with four-star Rolling Meadows (Ill.) guard Cameron Christie, who recently moved up to 84th nationally in rankings.

Perry, a longtime coach for Team Inland Basketball, said the "future is unlimited" for Evans with his size, at nearly 7-2 and 230 pounds, and his expanding offense.

"Dennis would change the game for them because he's a tremendous shot blocker," Perry added. "Dennis is a lot better offensive player than people imagine. He can shoot the three. If he comes there, they'll be in the tournament. I can tell you that."

A pretty raw talent early in his prep career, Evans had only one Division I scholarship offer from UC Riverside last year. High major schools took notice, though, during his breakout junior season at Hillcrest. He averaged a double-double in points and rebounds and seven blocks per game.

Evans, who has a 7-7 wingspan, then gained international experience and exposure playing for Team USA's U17 World Cup squad that won a gold medal in Spain this summer.

The Gophers have an advantage in recruiting Evans because of his relationship with Minnesota freshman and California native Jaden Henley. They developed through the same Inland AAU program. Henley, a 6-7 guard from Ontario, is competing for a starting spot.

"They both will be stars," Perry said. "It would be interesting to see them together. They're best friends. They played together. They grew up together."

Kansas, Texas Christian, and Minnesota appear to be the favorites for Evans, who reportedly will visit the Jayhawks at Midnight Madness this fall.

The Gophers or TCU beating out a national powerhouse for Evans might not be farfetched. Championship history and bigger opportunities with name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals won't be a determining factor.

"He's a different kid," Perry said. "It wasn't about the NIL stuff and all that."

Evans' official visit date with the Gophers hasn't been finalized yet, but he's expected to make that trip to the Twin Cities in late September.

Lakeville North sharpshooting forward Nolan Winter, the son of former Gophers center Trevor Winter, said he'll visit his father's alma mater Wednesday. Winter is expecting to make a decision soon after his U official visit, he told the Star Tribune last week.

The Gophers already have the state of Illinois' top senior guard with Christie. They have a good chance at Winter, the top big man in Minnesota. But Evans would be one of the program's highest rated recruits ever if he committed to Johnson.

"The style of play sticks out," Evans told about the Gophers at the UA Elite 24 event in Chicago this month. "I also like the area because it is going to be an easier place for me to stay grounded and develop without me worrying about too many outside distractions. I will also be able to show that I can make an impact at a higher level if I am given the chance."