Elvis Nnaji gets Minnesota offer
Late last week, Richard Pitino continued on a consistent route. He extended an offer to Elvis Nnaji, a 6-foot-9, 210 pound sophomore from Hopkins, Minnesota this past Friday.
Pitino has gotten criticism in the past from some circles for presumably getting in late on in-state prospects. That is not the case with the Class of 2022. Pitino has offered four players in that group and all are locals.
Nnaji joins Prince Aligbe and Chase Carter of Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, along with Camden Heide of Plymouth as. Minnesota sophomores who now have offers from the Gophers.
Elvis is also the younger cousin of Zeke, who is a freshman in the Arizona Wildcats program. But if Elvis continues his rate of growth, he will most certainly build his own identity.
Jason Fuhrmann was Nnaji's Head Coach for D1 Minnesota this past season and he offered a scouting report to us.
"Elvis is 6-foot-8, and explosive athlete, a great rim protector, and has a developing offensive game in the post and an outside shot. He definitely has the ability to guard multiple spots because of his athleticism. The sky is the limit for him and he continues to evolve his game."
The Gopher Report spoke with Elvis's uncle and Zeke's father, Epham, on Saturday night where he spoke his nephew's maturation and Minnesota's involvement past and present.
Q: For those who have not seen him play is he a traditional inside player?
Nnaji: "Yes, he is an inside player. As you know, the game has become positionless. The great thing he's got is that we have a coach in Ken Novak who is a Hall of Famer. He won a state last year with my son, Zeke. But he is just an incredible teacher. You watch their practice and you'll get bored out of your mind because it's not like the usual running up and down. He teaches the game like he's in a classroom. There's a lot of stopping to explain certain things to kids. So what we're doing right now is have him understand the need to play inside and outside, take you off the dribble, knock down the jumper. Now we are extending his shot to where he can hit the 3-pointer."
Q: How has he grown that part of his game?
Nnaji: "He's grown leaps and bounds, and Coach Pitino noticed that. They were coming over there recruiting Kerwin Walton, but a few times when he's played in the open gym and they've come and seen him they've noticed an incredible improvement. One thing I can say about Elvis as my nephew comparatively with my son Zeke at this age, if he had the same motor as this kid has right now, Zeke would have been hands down a top ten player in the country, no question in my mind. With Elvis and the way his projection is going right now and his trajectory, if he grows another inch and a half or another two inches the way the doctor said he would, and he has been right on time with his growth, he is going to be unstoppable and incredible. What we're trying to do is trying to get him to dial it down a little bit but not change his personality. He's going to be incredible."
Q: Was Minnesota his first offer?
Nnaji: "Yes, Minnesota was his first offer but that doesn't mean other schools haven't been talking. Iowa State, Purdue has been talking big time, Arizona knows about him, and of course Minnesota.
My wife went to the U, and it would have been an easy choice for Zeke to go to the U, but the problem was the for whatever reason they did not come close to Zeke like I thought they should have. So now I think they realize they know the local players because a lot of players are coming out of the Midwest in the past four or five years. So that's kind of why they made this move. They want to get close to him and bring him onto campus and show him what they have that's comparable to the other programs around the country."
Q: I'm sure they have known about him for awhile.
Nnaji: "Oh yes. They have known about him for a good while. They knew about him last year and even the year before. They have a newer assistant that came in, Rob Jeter, and he's incredibly intense when it comes to local kids. He's got his hands on a lot of kids. That's not to say that the other assistants were not, but since he came in it has been incredible, full bore, just making sure he knows who the parents are and understand and recognize them. Bring them on campus and make them feel important. They want them to be part of the program."
Q: How did the offer transpire?
Nnaji: "We got there and took a tour of the facilities, met with the academic advisors, we met with Quincy Lewis, and a bunch of other folks: the nutrition specialists and dieticians. We met with the new strength coach. We were impressed with his pedigree and what he brings to the table. After the meeting, Coach Pitino asked him if he had enjoyed his visit, and then offered.
He said, "We really like your game and where you're going. We like what we think you can become in the next year or two, and we want you to stay home."
My sister is a single mother, so it's important for her to be able to drive twenty minutes. and be able to watch him play. That's going to be the attraction for her and for my nephew.