St. Thomas males’s basketball made its Division I debut final 12 months with a 10-win season, however Tommies coach Johnny Tauer knew the expertise that might jump-start his program was on the way in which.
Tauer and his teaching workers name their present freshmen “founding fathers,” since they’re the primary full class after the official transfer from Division III final 12 months.
Minnesotans Ahjany Lee, Kendall Blue and Carter Bjerke and Wisconsin native Andrew Rohde arrived on campus this summer time because the No. 1 recruiting class within the Summit League.
“I feel it has the potential to be a very particular group,” Tauer stated. “All of them come as actually embellished highschool gamers and so they’re actually good college students and other people.”
Class of 2022 recruiting rankings had the Tommies ranked within the high 60 nationally, even forward of some Big Ten faculties. St. Thomas landed some gamers who have been recruited by high-major applications.
“It’s actually a blessing to have the ability to play for the hometown faculty the place my household can come see me,” stated Blue, a former East Ridge star. “I’m simply actually targeted on being a founding father throughout this course of they are going by means of. I simply needed to be a component of it.”
The Tommies completed 10-20 (4-14 in league play) of their first DI season in 2021-22, however the inflow of expertise might imply regular enchancment. They’re not eligible for the NCAA event till 2025-26, per an NCAA rule that requires a ready interval for faculties who climb to DI, however they’ll now play within the Summit League tourney.
“All of these guys have their moments,” fifth-year senior guard Riley Miller stated of the newcomers. “Andrew Rohde is basically good with the ball and might rating. Carter’s already a very good shooter. Ahjany, together with his dimension and athleticism, gives quite a bit defensively. Through these six weeks in the summertime, they’ve all grown quite a bit.”
Lee, who received a Minnesota Class 3A title final season with Totino-Grace, is arguably the highest-rated recruit in group historical past. The former top-100 prospect within the 2022 class was provided by the Gophers, Iowa, and Kansas.
Immediate taking part in time and the possibility to remain near dwelling have been main components in Lee’s determination, however he is additionally grateful to reunite with gamers who have been half of the D1 Minnesota AAU program.
“I made a decision to come back as a result of it is the place I actually needed to be and I beloved it right here,” Lee stated. “But Carter and I performed on the identical AAU group final summer time. And Kendall was on the highest group. When I noticed Carter dedicated, I used to be like, we clicked so properly. In my opinion, we have been one of the best two-man [inside] duo within the Midwest. Getting to play with him on the subsequent degree was one thing large.”
Lee’s size and athleticism ought to make him a rim protector. Bjerke, who led Wayzata to a Class 4A runner-up end, is already one of the group’s finest three-point shooters.
“It’s actually a dream come true for me,” stated Bjerke. “My mother and my dad each got here right here. My highschool coach [Bryan Schnettler] performed for coach Tauer. So I had that connection as properly. I’m tremendous comfy with this place and excited to be right here.”
Lee and Bjerke, each 6-9, have the potential to develop right into a formidable frontcourt tandem. Blue and Rohde, each 6-6, are displaying indicators of being St. Thomas’ future backcourt.
Rohde, who led Brookfield Central to a runner-up state end in Wisconsin, was the final to commit within the 2022 class. The Mr. Basketball finalist felt one thing particular on his official go to final fall.
“From that time I knew it was an actual household factor,” Rohde stated. “I actually needed to be right here.”
The Tommies may also be bolstered by transfers and Minnesotans Courtney Brown Jr. (Wisconsin-Milwaukee) and Drake Dobbs (Liberty). Tauer, although, has seen sufficient this summer time from his freshmen class to understand his imaginative and prescient of constructing a stable basis that’s rapidly coming collectively.
“This summer time has been nice for them to get acclimated the final six weeks,” Tauer stated. “There’s an enormous studying curve however we’re actually excited.”