Wednesday, April 23, 2008

White Verbal Another Step In Right Direction

Following his impressive five-man 2008 class, Tubby Smith received a verbal commitment, as reported today by the PiPress and Star Tribune, from standout Minnesota prospect Royce White.

We'll get to some, in my opinion, ill-conceived concerns about White in a second. But to begin, it must be said that this commitment, should it stand up to other coaches trying to poach White for their own teams, is the first step in locking down Minnesota's borders. Too often we've seen the best talent in the state head to Wisconsin (too many players to name), Kansas, Duke, Marquette, Michigan State and elsewhere. White is hands down the #1 prospect in Minnesota's class of 2009, and is ranked as such by Rivals. Here's a quote that recruiting service gave to the PiPress (story linked above).

"Royce is the best player in Minnesota," said Jerry Meyer, national recruiting analyst for Rivals. "Tubby took his recruiting at Minnesota to another level by getting Royce."

Rivals has White, a 6'7 forward, ranked as the 32nd best player in the country, regardless of position. White received interest from your usual smorgasbord of elite college programs, from UCLA and USC to your Big Ten programs. His decision to commit early to Tubby Smith is a great sign. It's an indication that Tubby Smith will go after top talent, will work to close the borders and to dramatically change the talent level on the Gophers' roster.

So, why Minnesota? Here's what White is quoted as saying via Rivals:
"It was an easy decision after looking at all my options", White said in the initial release. "Academically, Minnesota and the Big Ten for that matter provides excellent opportunities, and basketball wise there's not a better coach to play for then Coach Smith. After looking at some of the players headed to the U, the fact that it's close to home, and the simple fact that I love the Gophers, my decision was very easy."I respect coach Smith, I'm real good friends with him, I talk to him a lot, he's been a real advocate for me, he gives me really good advise and things like that. I think the Gophers are doing great things and they are on the upswing. I just like coach Smith a lot and I like his staff a lot."

A few things here. Number one, Smith appears to be a sort of mentor for White, who has had to deal with some unfortunate negative publicity for what he has described as an academic mistake while at DeLaSalle. Second, in the above quotes and in other Royce quotes in other articles, it's clear that Tubby Smith made him priority number one since Tubby arrived from Kentucky last spring. Tubby knew he needed this blue chipper for a number of reasons: to demonstrate the borders are closing, to improve the talent level on the roster and to end the perception that Tubby struggles in the recruiting department.

Now, there are some out there in the blogosphere and on the Minnesota message boards who will have you believe that signing Royce White is tantamount to giving Clem Haskins control over academics at the U. I think this line of thinking is far-fetched. Royce White is a kid after all. He made a mistake, one he's admitted and has taken responsibility for. That right there is a sign of someones character. Last time I checked 16 and 17 year olds make mistakes. White made his. He was embarrassed by it. And he's since found himself a mentor in Tubby Smith.

As I wrote previously, I trust Tubby Smith's judgment when talk comes to whether or not the Gophers should take a risk on a certain player. Unless White gives us another, more substantial reason to be concerned, I'd suggest Minnesota fans look forward to what Ralph Sampson III, Devoe Joseph, Royce White and others will do together on the raised floor at Minnesota.

If RSIII, Devoe and the class of 2008 was the first step in turning around the Minnesota basketball program, the White verbal is step two.


Tubtastic said...

Nice pick up. While I like that Tubby recruits nationally, landing top local players puts more pressure on Wisky and Iowa -- schools that have been poaching our in-state talent for years and that have a harder time attacting national talent.

PJS said...

Absolutely, tubtastic. Tubby's got to do both to turn Minnesota completely around into a contender: lock up Minny's best and snatch a couple other studs from out of state.

alex said...

This is fantastic news. The program is definitely heading in the right direction.

lurker said...

Alex just said what I was going to say. ... This is a sure sign Tubby is turning this program around.

Friend Of Tubby said...

Someone I know said He's THAT Good.

But I would add the Minnesota Is THAT Good For Him too.

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