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U Hit Bulls-Eye with “Greek Rifle”


Ryan Burns has 10 years of experience as a journalist covering University of Minnesota football recruiting. In that time he has never been more impressed with a high school quarterback verbally committed to the Gophers than Athan Kaliakmanis.

Kaliakmanis, an Illinois native who has one more season of eligibility for Antioch Community High School, is referred to by Minnesota coaches as the “Greek Rifle.”

Burns, the publisher of the popular, can see why. “I know from watching Athan live last summer (at camp) what he was able to do at 15 years old,” Burns said. “He’s a legitimate 6-3, 6-4. He runs well and he’s got an absolute cannon for an arm. All the physical attributes in what you would look for in a Big Ten quarterback are there.”

Kaliakmanis is so far the only four-star recruit in Minnesota’s five-player class for 2021. Burns said Shakopee defensive end Devin Eastern, now rated a three-star recruit, is on the edge of moving up.

“He is the epitome of what a Big Ten defensive end should look like,” Burns said. “He is a legitimate 6-5. He is legitimately 265 pounds and he has been on a tear in the weight room over the last four months. He has been working out with former Viking long snapper Mike Morris, who is his trainer.”

Also part of the 2021 class is Dino Kaliakmanis, the brother who is 14 months older than Athan. Dino is expected to play wide receiver or linebacker for the Gophers, per Burns. Other 2021 verbal commits are Annandale offensive tackle Logan Purcell and New Lenox, Illinois (Providence Catholic) tight end Jameson Geers. The three players are three-star recruits.

The 2021 class is rated No. 19 nationally by 247Sports. Burns expects the class to eventually have about 20 players, and he mentioned a few who the Gophers are pursuing including a coveted four-star running back in Mar’Keise Irving from Hillcrest High School in Country Club Hills, Illinois. He told Burns Minnesota “is in a very good position” in his recruitment.

Ryan Burns

Burns said the Gophers are in a “pretty heated battle” with Iowa for Totino-Grace offensive tackle Joe Alt. The three-star recruit’s dad is former Columbia Heights star John Alt who played for Iowa when Hawkeyes current head coach Kirk Ferentz was the offensive line coach.

Other players the Gophers are chasing include a pair of four-stars in Chicago Simeon offensive lineman Cameron James and cornerback Steven Ortiz from Desert Edge High School in Goodyear, Arizona.

Worth Noting

An anonymous Gopher basketball season ticket holder—weary of the present era—emailed the following about the departure of All-Big Ten center Daniel Oturu for the NBA Draft: “Not a big surprise. Fortunately our roster is loaded with talent.” projects Oturu being the No. 8 first round selection of the Charlotte Hornets. The last Gopher to be selected in the first round was Kris Humphries in 2002, drafted No. 14 by the Utah Jazz.

The same website had Duke point guard Tre Jones going in the first round earlier in the season but now has the former Apple Valley star being selected No. 54 in the second round by the Sacramento Kings.

Rumors have 2019 Minnesota Mr. Basketball Matthew Hurt transferring from Duke where he started 22 of 31 games, with five teammates playing more minutes. The Rochester John Marshall alum and prep All-American was fourth on the team in scoring at 9.7 points per game. Hurt is back home with his family in Rochester.

With no Minnesota natives among his top assistants, fans may wonder if head coach Richard Pitino will hire someone with state ties now that assistant Rob Jeter has accepted the head coaching job at Western Illinois.

In these uncertain times, it’s a good guess the Wilf ownership group will not extend the one-year contracts of general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer.

Among inductees at the Mancini’s St. Paul Sports Hall of Fame Banquet on May 11 will be Cretin-Derham Hall’s Chris Weinke and Central’s Dave Winfield, according to Dick Jonckowski who emcees the annual gathering with Charley Walters.

Jonckowski (October 22) and NBA Hall of Famer Rick Barry (March 28) call each other on their birthdays. Jonckowski said the coronavirus pandemic has led to a long list of cancelled appearances for him as an emcee, speaker and public address announcer.

Hopkins girls basketball coach Brian Cosgriff, who has won seven state titles, remains undecided about retiring and not returning to lead the Royals’ program. His daughter Brooke, a reserve on this year’s team, will attend UW-Eau Claire, but won’t play basketball. “She is genetically cursed,” Cosgriff said with humor. “Her mom is a 4-foot-10 Asian, and I am a slow 6-foot white guy.”

Former Gopher running back Barry Mayer emailing after he read Wednesday’s column detailing my back spasms: “The last one I had was so bad at first I was afraid I was literally going to die…and then I was afraid I wouldn’t!”

Minneapolis sportscaster and entrepreneur Lea B. Olsen will be the 2021 “head coach” of the Twin Cities Dunkers organization that dates back to 1948. In that volunteer role, Olsen will arrange program speakers.

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About Author


David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

(1) Reader Comment

  1. avatar
    Ken Lien
    March 30, 2020 at 11:25 am

    Regarding Matthew Hurt, I have talked with people directly related to Duke basketball and they have not heard any rumors about Hurt transferring to another school. That doesn’t mean that he won’t...we’ll wait and see.

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