Landmark recruit holds key to Gopher hoops

by Brian Hall

During last year’s recruiting season, Arizona men’s basketball coach Lute Olson and Minnesota coach Dan Monson discovered what Gopher fans will soon find out.

Never take Rick Rickert too seriously.

“I am not serious whatsoever,” Rickert said. “You should never believe a word I say. I just like to have fun and be goofy.”

After an early oral commitment to attend Arizona and play for Olson, Rickert changed his mind and will don the maroon and gold this fall.

Being ranked as one of the top-10 prep recruits in the nation by many recruiting services, Rickert knew he had many choices on where to continue his basketball career, yet he elected to stay home and play for the Gophers.

“I wanted the opportunity to help the home state out as much as I can,” Rickert said. “I wanted to contribute to a growing program and play for a great coach in Monson.”

Rickert, a slender 6-foot-10, 215-pound forward, comes to Minnesota from Duluth East High School where he averaged 29 points per game during his senior year. He was named to several postseason All-America teams and participated in the McDonalds High School All-America game.

“Rick has as much ability as any high school player in America,” Monson said. “Then the intangibles such as how competitive he is and what a good kid he is ends up being as valuable from a coach’s standpoint as what kind of basketball player he is.”

After going through a roller coaster ride of emotions during the recruiting of Rickert, Monson understands the significance in landing one of the most sought after recruits in Minnesota prep history.

“He is a torchbearer for the program,” Monson said. “We are trying to get good basketball players who are good students and good people. He is an example in all three of those areas of what we want from our student-athletes at Minnesota.”

Monson envisions using the versatile Rickert in a variety of roles including out on the perimeter. With the departure of several frontcourt players over the past year and a half, Rickert’s arrival also provides much-needed skill up front.

In addition, Rickert’s arrival at Minnesota after the NCAA imposed sanctions may show the program making a turnaround under Monson’s watchful eye.

“I think Rick is going to be very instrumental in taking the label off this program of being a probation riddled program,” Monson said.

Despite the pressure of being a landmark recruit, Rickert chooses to accept situations as they come and not take things too seriously.

“You just have to keep a level head about everything and take the compliments as they come,” Rickert said. “The same goes even when things don’t go well.”

Currently playing in the Howard Pulley Pro-Am League, Rickert continues to work and improve his game. The league is a collection of collegiate athletes looking to get extra playing time in a competitive environment during the summer.

Rene Pulley, the league organizer, placed Rickert on a team with current Gopher Jeff Hagen and fellow Minnesota recruit Maurice Hargrow to further aid Rickert’s development.

After dominating in high school, Rickert and Monson both understand the level of play in the Big Ten will be a challenge to the skilled big man. Yet, each believes with the more experience Rickert receives, the better he will become – one reason he is playing in the Howard Pulley league.

“There are a lot of expectation’s for Rick coming in, and rightfully so, because he is a great player,” Monson said. “But you have to remember he is still 18 years old and he hasn’t played against the caliber of players he will next year in the Big Ten.”

Perhaps showing his serious side, Rickert is committed to coming in and helping Minnesota return to the national spotlight.

“I think we are going to be really good this year,” Rickert said. “We have some good guys coming into mix with the great guys which are there now. We have positive attitudes plus we have the skill level to be great next year and that’s something I am really excited about.”


Brian Hall welcomes comments at [email protected]