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Gophers basketball team offers Fargo's 6-11 Tommy Ahneman a scholarship after his recent visit

One of the most important recruiting visits this summer for the Gophers basketball team took place Wednesday when it hosted North Dakota Player of the Year Tommy Ahneman, one of the fastest-rising senior big men in the country.

“It was so beautiful,” Ahneman said. “I can't wait to go back so an official can really see it all and take a closer look.”

Ahneman, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound four-star prospect from West Fargo, was in town for an unofficial visit that turned out to be the latest in a string of offers from the Big Ten, including Iowa, Nebraska, Penn State and Northwestern.

The Gophers were his first unofficial visit to a major conference, but he also has trips scheduled this month to Nebraska (June 17), Creighton (same week) and Wisconsin (June 26). He also hopes to return to Minnesota for an official visit the last week of August.

“The most important thing for Minnesota was that they wanted me to play like I do now, to be able to go deep or play up front,” said Ahneman, who saw a video of All-Big Ten forward Dawson Garcia during his visit.

“It's kind of like how I do everything now. I'm not saying I'm just going to go in and do everything like Dawson, because he's a great player. But I feel like I could potentially start copying him or trying to be better.”

A highlight of the visit was getting to know Garcia and watching him do individual workouts. The Gophers' official practice doesn't begin until Monday.

“It was cool to watch what he does,” said Ahneman. “I compared myself to him a little bit. After that we just talked to coach [Ben Johnson] for the rest of the visit.”

Ahneman's Minnesota connection runs through his mother's side. Erin Ditty grew up in Hastings and played on the school's basketball team that won the Class AA state championship in 1996. Ahneman's grandparents had season tickets for the Gophers basketball team, so he still attended games at Williams Arena as a child in North Dakota.

Playing for the Howard Pulley 17U team this spring, Ahneman emerged as a dominant interior presence with a developing all-around game, going from two Division I offers (North Dakota and Portland) at the start of the AAU season to now having six high-profile offers as of Thursday.

After growing a few inches and gaining strength in the weight room, Ahneman was able to increase his striking power on the ground tremendously this year.

Fargo West won the North Dakota Class 2A title, averaging 20 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks as a junior. Ahneman's confidence carried over into the spring AAU season. Pulley's man in the middle turned heads in the Nike circle, most notably in front of coaches in Indianapolis last month.

“I'm embracing it and enjoying it,” Ahneman said. “Howard Pulley has been great at building me up and helping me get to where I am now.” [Pulley coach] Eric Bronaugh was great and kept me in touch with the coaches.

“It was nice to back that up with my game and show the coaches what they want to see. Before, I was just a big kid, but now I can score on all three levels. I can defend wherever you want me to. It was just a great experience that helped me grow.”