U men’s basketball gets its first recruit

by Todd Zolecki

Kevin Nathaniel has heard all the comparisons between Gophers men’s basketball coach Clem Haskins and the toughest drill sergeant in the Air Force by now.
But Nathaniel, stationed at Lackland Air Base in San Antonio, Texas for the past three years, didn’t seem to mind. The military police officer signed a national letter of intent on Friday to play for the Gophers, who are coming off their finest season in school history with a trip to the Final Four and a Big Ten title.
Haskins said the 6-foot-4, 20-year-old swingman is expected to see minutes next season at small forward, point guard and shooting guard.
That sounds fine to Nathaniel, who said the Gophers coaching staff impressed him more than Texas, Indiana, Arkansas or Georgetown, which were the other schools recruiting him.
“It wasn’t just about business,” Nathaniel said. “It was about business and life. They’re interested in me as a person more so than any other school.”
Nathaniel, who averaged 28.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.3 assists last year, gave Texas an oral commitment in late March. But once he heard Longhorns coach Tom Penders had interviewed for the head coaching job at Rutgers, he decided to reopen talks with the Gophers.
“That’s when I gave Minnesota a call and asked if that option (to sign) was still there,” he said. “They said it was. The talks were real nice, so that’s why I decided to go there.”
Penders told the Austin American-Statesman on Saturday he thought the Gophers’ recruiting resembled “a bottom-feeding vulture technique.”
He also said, “It’s something I despise. I think it’s the ultimate in unethical conduct.
“To me, that type of recruiting is about as unethical as anything that can possibly go on outside of blatant cheating.”
Haskins was unavailable to comment on Penders’ remarks.
But for Nathaniel, switching from Texas to Minnesota made the most sense.
“When I made a commitment to him, I thought I had a full commitment from him,” he said. “I felt I had to do what was best for Kevin.”
Nathaniel actually waited to see if Texas would call and reassure him. The call never came so he called Texas. A member of the program said Penders did interview at Rutgers. He was also told that Penders interviews for jobs every year.
“When I heard that, it rubbed me the wrong way,” he said. “I know it’s all business, but I have to look for the most stability that has to be given for me.”