Two and through: Gophers’ Rickert to test NBA waters

by Anthony Maggio

Less than three years ago, Rick Rickert backed out of a verbal commitment to Arizona to play basketball for Minnesota.

But in a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Rickert announced his decision to forgo his two remaining years of eligibility to enter the NBA draft.

“After a long and careful consideration of everything I’ve decided that I’m going pro,” Rickert said, sitting in between his father, Lew, and coach Dan Monson.

“Ever since I was a kid I just had this dream of playing in the NBA. Now I have a chance to pursue this dream and fulfill it. It’s a great opportunity and I want this challenge.”

The Duluth native took many factors into consideration, including input from his family and fiancee.

“We talked about the future and how it would weigh out,” said CiCi Anderson, Rickert’s fiancee. “I supported him either way, but I think this is the right choice.”

Rickert’s decision came less than a week after the Gophers lost two games in the NIT in New York City.

Rickert led the team in scoring and rebounding, averaging 15.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.

For Minnesota, Rickert is the second player to leave the program early to enter the NBA draft in the last four years. Joel Przybilla left the Gophers in 2000 after quitting the team with six conference games left in his sophomore season.

“They’re different players and different people,” Monson said. “This was done more calculated and in a different situation as far as the process and rationale behind it.”

Monson and Rickert agreed Rickert needs to get stronger and quicker to compete in the NBA, but Rickert is likely to be a top-20 pick.

“I would think I would go anywhere from like 10 to 17, but I really don’t know,” Rickert said. “That number could be improved depending on how the workouts go.”

Added Monson: “Right now, a lot of people in the know have him in those numbers.”

Minnesota Timberwolves director of player personnel Rob Babcock said the NBA is not allowed to comment on underclassmen until all official letters are accepted and released by the league. The deadline for early entry letters is May 11.

Monson and Rickert submitted a form to the NBA’s Undergraduate Advisory Committee on Monday, which will give Rickert feedback from NBA managers as to where he will likely be drafted. Rickert should receive a response within a week.

The 2003 NBA draft will be held June 26 at New York City’s Madison Square Garden.

Rickert has until June 19th to pull out of the draft as long as he does not have an agent.

Rickert said he is holding off on hiring an agent to leave the option open of coming back to school. But Minnesota coaches and players aren’t expecting Rickert to change his mind.

“I’d be surprised if he made the other decision actually because of the opportunity he has,” teammate Michael Bauer said. “I’d be making the same exact decision.”

With Rickert’s departure, Minnesota is left with an extra scholarship for next season. But the Gophers already had one left, meaning the extra scholarship likely won’t affect next season.

“For it to become a factor we’d have to sign two guys, which is highly improbable because we’ve only got two visits left,” Monson said.

Anthony Maggio welcomes comments at [email protected]