Gophers are Favorites to Land 7’1″ Top-50 California Big Man

Photo: Travis Graf (@TravisGrafHoops - Twitter)

Ben Johnson has been quietly dominating the recruiting trail, in his first couple of years as Minnesota Gophers head basketball coach. Many of his targets and commitments have been locally grown. An important part of why he was hired. But Ben is making waves on the national level, as well. The latest impression he’s made is on 2023 California big man, Dennis Evans.

A Riverside kid, Evans stands at a lanky 7’1+” and his wingspan stretches a reported 7’7″. His composite 4-star (.9881) rating (247Sports) is ranked 31st in the nation for the 2023 class. How good is he?

If Dennis were to sign a National Letter of Intent to play at the University of Minnesota, his aforementioned .9881 composite grade would slot in as the school’s 3rd highest rated signing of any men’s basketball commitment in the internet era. Only Kris Humphries (2003) and Royce White (2009) have graded out higher.

Who are Gophers competing with?

What are the chances Ben Johnson can flag Dennis in from the West Coast? Well, Minnesota is one of three favorites to land Evans. The others are Kansas (2021 National Champs) and TCU. While the match may seem odd on its face, there are forces working in the Gophers’ favor.

One of those friendly forces is Jaden Henley, a 2022 signee from Ontario, CA. Evans and Henley are best friends and their relationship is playing heavily into the big man’s college decision. Gopher fans could get to know Henley pretty well, as soon as this season. Henley is one of a few Minnesota freshman currently battling for playing time at wing.

Do Gophers Have Realistic Shot?

Dennis Evans has told 247Sports that he likes the way Minnesota plays, and that he doesn’t want distractions outside of football or school. NIL prospects aren’t at the top of his priority list, either. Judging by what Evans’ AAU coach told Marcus Fuller (Star Tribune), the Gophers are definitely a favorite.

“He’s definitely going to visit Minnesota. He might end up going to Minnesota to be completely honest. Ben and [assistant Marcus Jenkins] have done a tremendous job recruiting Dennis.”AAU Coach Elvert Perry (via Star Tribune)

“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.”AAU Coach Elvert Perry (via Star Tribune)

Dennis Evans’ film confirms what his AAU coach said above. For a youngster, who clearly hasn’t grown into his body yet, the Hillcrest High School star moves really well. He has great coordination and a damn smooth shooting stroke, for a kid his size. Evans appears comfortable with the ball in his hands, both on the block and outside the 3-point arc.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan