Column: Landing Martin is important start for recruiting

by Samuel Gordon

About time, Pitino.

First-year head men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino landed his first commitment in the 2014 class Monday when power forward Josh Martin of Seattle announced his decision to commit to the Gophers via Twitter.

“Hopefully when he’s the next Pitino in the Hall of Fame, I can say I was the first commit,” Martin said.

One down, still a few more to go.

This year’s Gophers squad is void of proven big men. Martin isn’t proven either, but he’s got potential.

He’s a 6-foot-8-inch combo forward with above-average athleticism. He can also run the floor, knock down a jumper and finish at the rim against bigger defenders.

This is a significant get for Pitino and his staff, which had already whiffed on five-star guard Isaiah Whitehead and four-star guards Lourawls Nairn and Josh Perkins.

Whitehead elected to go to Seton Hall, Nairn to Michigan State, and Perkins to Gonzaga.

That said, Pitino was hired in April and joined the recruiting game a little later. He didn’t have the chance to cultivate the type of relationships other schools did.

Martin spurned Pittsburgh and Florida State, among others, in favor of the Gophers.

Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon and Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton are regarded among the better coaches in the nation.

Martin opting to play for Pitino says a lot about the first-year head coach and the optimism that surrounds his program. Pitino needs to capitalize on that.

Minnesota’s “Big Three” recruits in the 2014 class are all still undecided.

Tyus Jones, Rashad Vaughn and Reid Travis combine to comprise the best group of in-state recruits the state has ever seen.

Though it’s unlikely at this point, landing one of the three would be monumental for the program.

Still, Pitino is doing his due diligence to fill the class in the event that none of them commit.

Wisconsin three-star guard Riley LaChance is a top-100 player considering Minnesota. The Gophers have also hosted top-150 recruit and three-star shooting guard Carlos Morris for his official visit.

Gophers practice kicked off last weekend, and Pitino won’t exactly have an abundance of time to recruit during the season.

Most recruits commit in the fall, and Martin’s commitment could get the ball rolling.

“I’m definitely praying that a few guys come with me,” Martin said. “But I’m not trying to impose my thoughts on them.”

It’s not a make-or-break commitment, but it’s a start.

Ya feel me?