Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Tubby's First Recruit

Nate Garth, a 6-foot-4 junior point guard from Dallas' Woodrow Wilson High School offered Gophers coach Tubby Smith an oral commitment Tuesday according to published reports.

According to the Pioneer Press' Marcus Fuller, Garth was being recruited by California, Mississippi and Santa Clara, among others. Fuller also suggests that Florida and Texas A&M have shown interest. That might be a little stretch for what Rivals and Scout recruiting services suggest is a three-star point guard.

For a Gophers team that has struggled most mightily at the guard position in recent years, the oral commitment is good news. But with the news that Garth has decided to make Minnesota home, it shouldn't go without mention that Tubby couldn't convince McDonald's All-American Jai Lucas, son of former NBAer Jerry Lucas, to come north. Smith had recruited Lucas hard at Kentucky and was poised to bring the young five-star guard to the commonwealth of Kentucky before he left the university. Instead, Lucas will attend the two-time national champion Florida Gators.

While Garth won't put on a jersey until 2008, if at all--oral commitments are non-binding--the discussion shouldn't center around not getting Lucas. While local writers like Sid Hartman and Charley Walters liked to throw out that idea, it probably wasn't likely. What the Gophers are getting, though, is what many accounts suggest is a high-quality point guard.

Garth, who played in the Sacramento area before moving to Texas, was thought to be headed to the California Golden Bears. The Bears' service, Bear Territory, gushed over Garth before he made the annoucement Tuesday he would attend Minnesota.

Garth's game is extremely smooth. Though he's been a distributor while playing with the likes of Jennings, Simpkins (two potential 5-star big men in the 2008 class), plus 5-star small forward LSU signee Anthony Randolph at Wilson this past season, he has a solid three-point stroke that's picture perfect. He also has a knack for driving and dishing, plus an advanced feel for running in the open court.

Defensively, he's still improving on his overall aggressiveness. He acknowledges that he wants to rebound better, and put more pressure on his opponents.

"I know I've improved in a lot of areas, but I definitely want to get better at ball pressure," Garth said. "I'm quicker on my feet than I was before, and I still get some steals. But I know I can improve defensively."

According to the Minnesota perodicals, Smith seems unlikely to sign another player to help out this season. While that make for a long 2007-08 campaign, that will leave 5 scholarships available for the following season. If Garth does in fact come to town, he will join Rosemount, Minn. center Andrew Brommer, who offered an oral commitment to former Gophers coach Dan Monson. According to the Pioneer Press report, Smith is after another Texas guard, this time Willie Warren, a 4-star guard, and Ralph Sampson III, son of the former Virginia star.

The Pioneer Press article, which featured substantially more information than our friends at the Star Tribune, offered a positive review from

"He's really a solid player. He can shoot the ball and set up people real well. In a class with not a lot of depth at point guard, it's a good get for Minnesota. He's a very good passer but just needs to get stronger, like most high school players."

Another item to point out here: Garth never even visited Minnesota. Simply, he wanted to play for Tubby. The Gophers coach became familiar with Garth while at Kentucky, but according to the PiPress, backed off a bit as the Wildcats made a hard run at Lucas.

"When [Tubby] went to Minnesota and saw the point guard situation there, he said he had to have me. He sounded just as excited as me," Garth said. "I know what Tubby is capable of and what he can do for a program. No knock on Dan Monson, but Tubby's going to get high major players. With the work ethic he has, he's going to turn things around quickly."

Time will only tell if Garth is right. But what I'd like to see is a Tubby version of a Fab-Five for 2008-09. We shall see.