Feb. 28, 2012; Madison, WI, USA; Minnesota Gophers head coach Tubby Smith gives directions to his team as they play the Wisconsin Badgers during the first half at the Kohl Center. Wisconsin defeated Minnesota 52-45.Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-US PRESSWIRE

Tubby inks two recruits on signing day

Wednesday marks the first of two signing days for men’s basketball.

With four seniors on the Gopher roster, coach Tubby Smith already has half of his recruiting class locked up Wednesday afternoon.

Alvin Ellis and Alex Foster made visits to Minnesota on Sept. 21 to check out the foundation that Smith has built at Williams Arena.  Soon after, both verbally committed to the program.

The three-star prospects both hail from the Chicago area and have played with each other while growing up.  Ellis chose Minnesota over Northwestern and Kansas State.  The 6-foot-5-inch small forward will likely play shooting guard at the college level.  Ellis is a well-rounded player that has the ability to shoot at a high percentage while being a capable defender on the other end.

Foster chose Minnesota over Nebraska and Tennessee in the middle of October.  The lefty post player is long and athletic, but lacks the aggression that will be needed after the departure of Trevor Mbakwe.  Foster is more of a smooth power forward that relies on his footwork to squeak past defenders.

The Gophers still have two spots remaining in this year’s class.  One spot is likely saved for power forward Gavin Schilling.  Schilling has played with both Foster and Ellis in his career and holds offers from Illinois, UCLA, and USC. The 6-foot-9-inch forward is playing his senior ball in Nevada at Findlay Prep.

There are a ton of options for the fourth and final spot, perhaps a spot for a junior college player.  The junior college route is something that Smith has liked to do in his tenure at Minnesota. The fourth member will likely be a guard.

The basketball team won’t be implementing any new blood this season.  Tubby Smith stated on Tuesday freshman Charles Buggs will redshirt this season, and it is likely that Wally Ellenson will redshirt as well as he battles back from a hand injury.

As Minnesota continues to secure recruits for next season, the school must also look further.

The Gophers have a tough task at hand as it looks forward to the class of 2014.  Minnesota is loaded in terms of talent at the high school level.  The state has three of the top 50 recruits in the nation in Tyus Jones, Rashad Vaughn, and Reid Travis.

If Tubby could snag even one of the three, it would be a major accomplishment.

Jones is the top point guard in the class of 2014 and could be the top overall recruit.  Minnesota is listed in the Apple Valley native’s final eight. Vaughn is a shooting guard that continues to rise in the ranks of prospects and is now a 5-star recruit in Rivals.  He lists Maryland as his top team.  So, the Gophers last shot may be with Travis, a small forward out of DeLaSalle in Minneapolis.  He is a two-sport athlete and is getting looks from SEC schools for his quarterback play.

It’s very likely that Smith could swing and miss on all three accounts.  If Minnesota is able to strengthen its body of work with a good season and more talks about a practice facility, things could eventually swing back in the Gophers favor.

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