Gophers men’s basketball lands five-star, 7-footer Dennis Evans

Ben Johnson made the biggest enlistment boost to the Gophers men’s basketball program in nearly 20 years with a Monday commitment from five-star Dennis Evans center in California.

The 7-1 Riverside senior picked Hillcrest’s Gopher over Texas Christian, but he also received an offer from the defending champions Kansas.

Evans is arguably the best blocker in the 2023 class, the highest rated U incoming since former Hopkins star Kris Humphries in 2003 – ranked 13th nationally by Rivals.com.

“He’s a different kid,” said longtime Inland Basketball AAU coach Elvert “Kool-Aid” Perry, who visited Minnesota earlier this month with Evans and his family. He wanted to go somewhere that could have an immediate impact.

Not since the 1980s has a Gopher garnered an incoming recruit who has a higher out-of-state rating than Evans, who also ranked 27 in his class before 247Sports.com and 28 PrepHoops.com.

Also includes Johnson 2023 chapter Rolling Meadows 4-star (Illinois) goalkeeper Cameron Christiewho recently climbed to number 84 nationally in the 247Sports.com rankings.

“I built a really good relationship and got to know a few of the staff while I was there,” Evans told 247Sports.com. “I love the fact that they push their men really hard and are willing to help every player improve.”

Evans is expanding his offensive skills beyond drawing. He used his 7-7 wingspan to block 10 or more shots five times last season, including a 16-block game. This was the fifth best mark in the history of prep in California.

Despite taking last place in the Big Ten in 2021-22, Gophers sold Evans early in the hiring process to help them build a program in the competition. Johnson and his assistant Marcus Jenkins, a native of California, first met Evans last year on enlistment Current freshman guard Jaden Henley.

“Ben and Marcus did a tremendous job recruiting Dennis,” Perry said. “They were honest and straightforward. It wasn’t about the zero-sum stuff and all that. We were just looking for the right environment. Minnesota has an environment. Jaden loves it there.”

TCU and the Gophers were Evans’ finalists, which shocked the recruiting world because the Jayhawks and other notable undergraduate programs were ultimately not considered.

The Gophers capitalized on Evans’ relationship with Henley, the 6-7 guard from Ontario, California, with whom he played on the Inland AAU program.

“It helps me get to know a little bit more because I’m going to ask him questions,” Evans told the Star Tribune earlier. “I think it could be really good. He’s a hardworking worker and someone I’ve grown up with for a while. Someone I have to see blossom.”

Evans’ father is seven feet tall, but he never played basketball in college. Evans grew 10 inches in the seventh and eighth grades when he first learned the game in San Bernardino. He was 6-11 years old and was wearing size 16 shoes by the time he entered high school.

“If the people around him are patient, he has a chance to be a very influential player,” said veteran national recruitment expert Frank Burleson, who thought Evans’ height was closer to 7-2. “He brings some rare things, especially in the modern era of basketball.”

Raw talent with only one division presenting him last year, Evans got stronger and his confidence as a rookie soared. He averaged 11 points, 10 rebounds, and seven blocks, including five games with 10 or more blocks.

Playing for the U-17 World Cup team for Team USA, Evans won a gold medal in Spain this summer. He was also one of the top performers at the US junior national team’s training camp this month in Colorado Springs.

Evans has heard from several of the top Power Five schools after performing well during the AAU season and for Team USA this summer, but the Gophers have really stood out with him.

“He’s very adaptable,” Hillcrest coach Jackson Wood said. Even while staying low and using his height he gets blocks without jumping. He waits for the attacking player to jump. He got it all high school level [rim protecting]. But in the Big Ten, it’s a huge step to the next level. I’m excited to see what he does at this level.”

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