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Howie Hanson: Rickert's collegiate career nearing

University of Minnesota men's basketball coach Dan Monson says nearly everyone he talks to these days asks about 6-foot-10 prized recruit Rick Rickert.

University of Minnesota men's basketball coach Dan Monson says nearly everyone he talks to these days asks about 6-foot-10 prized recruit Rick Rickert.
"The anticipation of Rick joining our program is enormous," Monson said of the former Duluth East star, McDonald's High School All-American and two-time Associated Press Minnesota Player of the Year, who has committed to the Gophers.
Rickert -- with an impressive inside-outside game and with mostly two or three defenders hanging on him each time he touched the ball -- averaged 25.7 points, 11.6 rebounds and 6.9 blocks per game last season and single-handedly led Duluth East to the 2001 Minnesota Class AAAA championship game.
His national reputation has risen considerably since the state tournament, thanks to strong showings at the McDonald's All-American High School game in Durham, N.C., and Capital Classic Basketball All-Star game in Washington, D.C.
"I didn't see the ball much, but I was pleased," Rickert said of his two nine-point efforts in the run-and-gun, Globetrotter-like national all-star games.
Rickert's scoring, rebounding and ball-handling skills make him a big-time college recruit and a National Basketball Association prospect, Monson said.
"It's why everyone wanted him in their program, for his versatility," said Monson. "His skills allow him to compete in college right away."
Rickert will take classes at the University this summer and play in the Police League with some of his new Gophers teammates and a few local pros.
"Every facet of my game needs improvement, to be successful at the next levels," Rickert said. Rickert says he models his game after Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Garnett.
"KG's a stud, the best player in the NBA who cans threes, dunks, posts-up, plays on the perimeter and block shots," Rickert said.
Former University of Minnesota-Duluth coach Dale Race likes Rickert's competitiveness and passion for the game.
"Most 6-10 high school kids aren't as motivated, with such skills," said Race. "Rick must become more powerful to withstand the rigors of the rugged Big 10, where it's a 40-minute war every night. Will his legs still be strong into February and March, and will he be averaging 10 to 15 points a game as a freshman inthe Big 10? If not, people should be patient, because he'll get there."
Former Duluth Central star Roger Hanson likes Rickert's work ethic, jump shot and quick feet around the basket. "He's the best Minnesota high school kid I've seen, ahead of Kevin McHale at the same level," Hanson said.
The Gophers' recruiting class also includes 6-11 center Jerry Hollman, 6-8 power forward O'Neal Mims, 6-4 shooting guard Moe Hargrow and 5-9 point guard Aaron Robinson. Rickert is the diamond in the group.
"Rick's upside? The NBA," Monson said matter-of-factly. "We have an obligation to work hard to help him to reach that level."
Minnesota and Division II Minnesota Duluth will meet Nov. 8 at Williams Arena and a year later at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center.
"Getting on Minnesota's schedule is outstanding for basketball in our region," said Race. "Imagine 7,000 screaming people at the DECC watching Rickert and (Sean) Seaman on the same floor again. Dan Monson understands what bringing Rickert back home will mean to our area."
Howie Hanson writes a weekly sports column for the Duluth Budgeteer News. He may be reached by telephone at 624-4189 or by e-mail at howie@duluth.com .

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