7-Footer Transfers Out So Pitino/Gophers Lock in on UND Standout for Upcoming Season

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – MARCH 16: Geno Crandall #0 of the North Dakota Fighting Sioux is defended by Parker Jackson-Cartwright #0 of the Arizona Wildcats during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 16, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

There have been some rumblings over the last week that the Gopher Basketball team may have a potential new recruit who wants to spend his grad-transfer senior season in Minnesota. His name is Geno Crandall. A DeLaSalle (Minnesota) standout coming out high school, Geno went to the University of North Dakota where he played his first 3 years of eligibility and led UND to their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance in 2016-17.

When you look at the season stats for UND, you can see how important Geno was:

Geno has actually been on campus working out with the rest of the team in the new facilities a lot lately, per reports. Darren Wolfson even reported that Richard Pitino and Crandall’s Father actually sat down to meet very recently. The problem certainly doesn’t seem to be a lack of interest on either side but actually a lack of scholarships available for the 2018 Gopher squad. All 13 of them were full. That’s been quite the discussion topic over at GopherIllustrated.com over the last week. But today, the University of North Dakota transfer had his path opened to a season wearing his home-town Maroon and Gold.

7-footer Matz Stockman, a transfer from Pitino Sr. and Louisville last spring, announced his desire to now transfer out of Minnesota, to play elsewhere. Stockman never played a minute here, after sitting out last season due to transfer restrictions. Had he stayed, he likely would have taken a role similar to that of Bakary Konate last season (around 10-15 minutes per game), so he would’ve contributed, but not nearly to the caliber that Geno will, if he does pull the trigger on The U.

I haven’t seen Crandall play much but from what I have seen and everything I’ve read early on, Geno is a LEGIT Big Ten point guard. He carried the Fighting Hawks in 2017 and looks to demand really big minutes. He already knows a lot of the team, so cohesion might be easier than it normally would too, for someone coming into a new team.

With Crandall being the obvious choice (if you have one) over Stockman, I have a couple of questions rolling around.


First, did Richard Pitino and his staff “recommend” or “advise” that Stockman look elswhere for a place he could have a bigger role, knowing they had Crandall holding his hand out for a 1-year scholarship that the team badly wanted to give him? I’m not sure that’s something we’ll ever find out (unless Crandall doesn’t commit to the Gophers) but it’s certainly a question others are asking.

Second, the Gophers were really going to rely heavily on Isaiah Washington this season, after a slow start to his career last year as a Freshman. But now, will he even start? Will Geno come in and need to start right away? How does that affect Isaiah Washington? The Gophers’ future relies heavily on the New York native and will need him to really shine throughout the rest of his tenure with the Gophers. We’d see a lot of both Jellyfam and Geno but who takes the floor at tip-off will be something worth watching.

Assuming Geno does commit to the Gophers, he’d be replacing a big man who would’ve provided some depth. That depth in the front-court is now virtually gone. The Gophers will rock three main big men if everything falls into place. Returning phenom, Jordan Murphy will man the 4-spot (Power Forward) for one more season while Eric Curry will line up at the 5-spot (Center) for tip-offs. Incoming Freshman, Daniel Oturu, will likely be first off the bench but should land pretty big minutes. However, both Eric Curry and Daniel Oturu (less severe) are currently recovering from knee injuries. We should see a good amount of Michael Hurt down low too and possibly even some Jarvis Omersa, another incoming Minnesota Freshman.

Keeping all of these questions in mind, one thing is for sure. Landing Crandall for this season would be huge and an absolute offseason victory. He has huge talent and also possesses postseason experience at a position where we now have none. From everything I’ve seen and read he would likely contribute more than any other newcomer this season (there are now 5). It should also cement the Gophers as an NCAA Tournament team. Pitino has done a really good job of scrambling to fill a team that many were very worried about just a month ago.

But now, he needs to win. I’m officially excited for basketball season.

Eric Strack
MinnesotaSportsFan.com @RealMNSportsFan