(Photo: Julia Rendleman, Post-Gazette)
Despite an underwhelming offensive performance, one in which he missed 10 of 13 shots for eight points, Elijah Minnie proved to be a vital cog for Lincoln Park as it captured the program's first PIAA championship Friday with a 70-66 victory against Math, Civics and Sciences Charter School.
Defensively, Minnie was outstanding, blocking nine shots and grabbing eight rebounds, the kind of numbers that are indicative of what he's done for much of the season.
A number of college programs are after Minnie and over the past month, Robert Morris coaches -- assistants as well as head coach Andy Toole -- have appeared at several of his games.
Right after capturing the championship, I was able to talk with Minnie for a few minutes about his recruitment process, specifically how Robert Morris fits into it. A senior, he said that he would like to stay close to home for college, but also added that while the Colonials are "in the hunt," they are probably his fifth or sixth choice out of seven schools at the moment. Obviously, this is a fluid situation and in a couple of weeks, it's likely to be more concrete.
Minnie also has offers from Elon, James Madison, Liberty, Rhode Island, Saint Joseph's, Temple and Virginia Tech, according to Rivals.com. He's also reportedly drawn interest from Pitt, West Virginia, Mount St. Mary's, North Carolina State and TCU.
While his offensive game needs some polish and his physical frame could use 30-or-so pounds of muscle, it's hard to deny that Minnie is a superb defensive presence with length and athleticism, the kind that would make him a strong addition to the Robert Morris program.
Below is a transcript of the conversation I had with him:
Have you felt more of a push from Robert Morris over the past two months? “They’ve been on me actually since I was a freshman, but there was a lot of talk of West Virginia and bigger schools [pursuing me], so they backed off a little bit. They really got interested after last season. I think I averaged almost 20 points per game and I did a lot last year. Coach Toole said he really likes the way I play and loves how I play defense, block, shots, rebound, score at will. That’s what [Lincoln Park assistant] coach [Mike] Bariski likes, too. A lot of other college coaches like it, too, but Robert Morris in particular loved the way I play.”
What's been their pitch to you? "They want me to come to the facility to see around. They’re really interested and they really want me to come there. I have the offer on the table. They talk to me every day, just ask me how I am, how everything’s going. I’m pretty sure I’ve got a text message waiting…well, I think they play tonight, actually…but I’ll probably have a text message asking about the game, to see if we won or lost. I love coach Toole – he’s amazing and a great coach. They talk to me every day and they keep up with me. I like that. That makes it even better that they care and they’re really interested.”
Have the coaches given you an idea of how they envision you fitting into their in system? “They told me they want me as a forward right now, but they said after the offseason to go to the facility and work out with their guys. Potentially, if I work on my handle and a little bit more outside shooting that I could potentially be a three or a four. But right now, they’re looking at me as a four.”
Have you narrowed your college list down at all? “I really haven’t. If you ask me that question in about two weeks, I’d probably give you a solid answer. Because of school and this team, I was trying to get his accomplishment right here [a state championship] before I got started with any kind of college decisions. But there are a couple of colleges that are involved. I talk to them once in a while and I have a couple of offers, but now, it’s time to visit schools and do all of the necessary things that will get me to a college that I would feel comfortable going to.”
Would you say Robert Morris is firmly in the hunt? “They’re definitely in the hunt. My college choice will probably be close to home and it’s significantly close to home. It’s definitely in the hunt. Out of the seven, they’re probably like five or six. They’re definitely in there.”