NEW YORK (AP) -- When Rick Rickert steps on the court Thursday night at Madison Square Garden in the consolation game of the NIT, it might be his last game as a Minnesota Golden Gopher because he's considering the NBA draft.
"It may be, it may not be," said Rickert. "Either way, it's going to be a great thing. I'm just looking forward to playing."
Minnesota (19-13) plays coach Bob Knight and his Texas Tech Red Raiders (21-13) before the title game between Georgetown and St. John's. Knight won the NIT title in 1979 with Indiana.
Knight's Red Raiders blew a 10-point lead against St. John's, losing 64-63, while the Hoyas dominated Minnesota 88-74 on Tuesday in the other semifinal.
Rickert, a sophomore, won't announce his NBA decision until after the game, but he knows what it is. He said after the Gophers' overtime victory against Temple last week that he had made up his mind.
Thursday, April 3
Minnesota (19-13) vs. Texas Tech (21-13), 4:30 p.m.
Georgetown (19-14) vs. St. John's (20-13), 7 p.m.
Underclassmen have until May 12 to declare for the draft, according to the NBA's Web site. As long as he doesn't hire an agent, Rickert has until June 19 to withdraw his name before the NBA draft on June 26.
Rickert's decision likely will affect the Gophers' recruitment of several junior college frontcourt players.
"If I were to go, I would feel that I was ready, but then again, maybe I'm not," Rickert said. "I'm going to gather some information. I want some input. What do my parents think, what does my fiancee think?"
Rickert and Gophers coach Dan Monson are scheduled to sit down in the near future and gather information from NBA general managers and player-personnel officials in an attempt to get a better understanding of where Rickert would be selected. Rickert's combination of size at 6 feet 10, mobility and shooting touch make him an intriguing prospect.
"We just want to get as much information from general managers, the actual people who pick," Monson said, "not the people on the Internet or scouts."
NBA scouts and college basketball analysts have been outspoken in saying Rickert should return to school for at least another season to get stronger and work on his game to improve his position in the draft.
"The kid has great upside," ESPN analyst Bill Raftery said before the Gophers lost to Georgetown. "There's still areas of his game he needs to work on."
One of the biggest questions surrounding Rickert is where he could play in the NBA. He's not quick enough to defend small forwards and not strong enough to battle power forwards.
When the Gophers have trailed late in a game, Monson often has taken Rickert out for defensive purposes. Rickert has blocked only 27 shots, third on the team this season.
Mike Jarvis' St. John's team plays Craig Esherick's Georgetown squad Thursday night in the NIT final, and St. John's (20-13) hopes to add another title to its tournament-record five championships.
Georgetown big man Michael Sweetney saved his best performance of the season for the end, dominating teams down low during the Hoyas' resent resurgence. He had 32 points against Minnesota in the semifinals Tuesday night.
Sweetney averages a double-double (22.8 points, 10.4 rebounds). He also is a junior, and he has given no indication whether he will leave school to enter the NBA draft.
"He's got to be if not the best big man in college, one of the best," St. John's guard Marcus Hatten said.
Hatten also has been the Red Storm's best player throughout the season. He scored 14 of his game-high 34 points in the final 3:17 to help St. John's erase a 16-point deficit in the final seven minutes and beat the Hoyas 77-72 on Jan. 18.
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