Ben Carlson, a 6-foot-8 rising junior forward from East Ridge (MN) High, is one of the state’s top players in the Class of 2020.
Carlson comes from an athletic family. His father, Marc, played college basketball at Iowa State and St. Cloud State. His mother, Sheri, was a volleyball All-American at St. Cloud State and is the school’s all-time leader in blocks. His older sister, Brynn, is a 6-foot-4 outside hitter at Kansas State, where she made the Big 12 All-Rookie team last year.
Carlson helped lead the Raptors to a 23-6 record last season, losing to eventual state champion Cretin-Derham Hall 62-52 in the Class AAAA Section 4 title game.
Gopher Hole caught up with Carlson to learn the latest on his recruitment.
Gopher Hole: You had a very good spring and summer AAU-wise with D1 Minnesota. How pleased are you with how well the team played?
Ben Carlson: I am really happy with how we played. We had a really good group of guys. We know each other really well and I have been playing really well and so has my team, so it has been a really good year.
Gopher Hole: I know that you picked up a lot of recruiting interest. How many offers are you up to right now?
Ben Carlson: Right now, I have offers from Nebraska Stanford, Davidson, Minnesota, Creighton, Iowa State, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin and Wake Forest.
Gopher Hole: Obviously, you have a very impressive list. A lot of those schools are Midwest-based, but some are out across the country. Was there one that maybe caught you a little off guard?
Ben Carlson: No, I have been talking to them all for awhile, so I was in contact with all those schools.
Gopher Hole: If someone had told you a year ago that you would have nine offers not even going into your junior season yet, what would you have thought?
Ben Carlson: I probably wouldn’t have believed it. It has been a dream come-true. I get to see all my hard work pay off. It has been an awesome experience. I can’t really explain it, but it has been a lot of fun.
Gopher Hole: Does that make you want to work even a little bit harder to get even more interest?
Ben Carlson: I just want to keep working on my game and keep getting better. I just want to get as good as I can be, which is my goal.
Gopher Hole: I know that you have been to a lot of campuses as well. What has that experience been like because to be honest, a lot of kids might not be able to be able to do some of traveling that you have been able to do?
Ben Carlson: I have been lucky to go to all those campuses. To me, the biggest thing is to see what all the different schools have. How they are different and how they are the same? It is really cool to see all the stuff that they have.
Gopher Hole: How much do you think that helps, by seeing it and being there rather than just hearing about it?
Ben Carlson: I think it helps a little bit because you actually get to see it in person instead of just looking at pictures. You actually get to be in the school, so I think that helps.
Gopher Hole: You got a chance to play with your high school team in June. You guys are expected to be one of the best teams in the state. Unfortunately, you have been in one of the toughest sections the past couple years, losing to Cretin the past two years. They lost some key players. What are the expectations for East Ridge this upcoming year?
Ben Carlson: We want to win the state tournament. That is our goal. I think that talent to do it. We work well together. We have a really good coaching staff, so I think that is our goal, to win the state tournament.
Gopher Hole: What things are you really working on this summer to continue to improve yourself as a player?
Ben Carlson: The biggest thing is I have been in the weight room a lot with our high school program. We have a really good program with our high school team, so that helps. I’ve been doing that a lot. My ballhandling and three-point shooting.
Gopher Hole: You look a little bit bigger than even the last time that I saw you. What are you up to height and weight-wise right now?
Ben Carlson: I’m like 6-9, 205, so up a couple of pounds and maybe a little bit taller.
Gopher Hole: Besides the nine schools that have offered you, what other schools are you hearing from right now?
Ben Carlson: New schools I have heard from are Gonzaga, Ohio State, Indiana and a couple others that I can’t remember right now.
Gopher Hole: I know that you are only going into your junior year, but do you still like the recruiting process or are you starting to see how it can be a little overwhelming at times or are you still liking it?
Ben Carlson: I still like it. It is a little crazy now because coaches can call me, but it is a really cool experience to be a part of, so I really like this.
Gopher Hole: Is it kind of nice to know that you, to be honest, have some great choices, wherever you go? Wherever you go, you are probably going to get a great education and great college experience. Does that make it a little bit easier knowing that wherever you go?
Ben Carlson: That helps a lot. I could go to any of those schools. They are all top-notch schools. You are going to get a good education and have a good basketball career at any of those schools. You get the combination of both and that is really special.
Gopher Hole: Is that something you are proud of, because obviously Stanford, Northwestern and some of those schools are not only good basketball teams, but some of the best colleges in the country?
Ben Carlson: Academics has always been a priority for me, so those are probably two of the top schools in the world, which is pretty cool to say that I could have an opportunity to go to those schools.
Gopher Hole: Stanford has had a couple of Minnesota kids and so has Northwestern. Is that kind of cool?
Ben Carlson: It is cool that there are connections at these different schools. I know some of the players, so that Minnesota connections is cool.
Gopher Hole: Have you even thought about when you would try to decide on a college? Have you even thought that far?
Ben Carlson: No. I honestly don’t know. It is going to be awhile.
Gopher Hole: What are going to be the main factors that are going to make you pick School A over School B or C?
Ben Carlson: The biggest one is the head coach. My relationship with the head coach. Are we going to work well together? Academics. Style of play. Those are probably the biggest things for me.
Gopher Hole: I know that Minnesota had offered you and D1 teammate Dawson Garcia a few months ago. What was the feeling when you heard from the homestate school?
Ben Carlson: That was really cool. I’ve watched them my whole life. They are local, so I am getting to know their coaching staff more, because they are all new, but I really like the new coaching staff. They have some good guys there.
Gopher Hole: Is that a little bit of a change because they have a couple of coaches who weren’t there last season? Is that a little bit tough to build that relationship or has it been maybe easier than you thought?
Ben Carlson: Yes, because I used to talk to Coach Ben Johnson and he left, so I am talking to some other coaches. It hasn’t been hard. The new assistants are really good about it, so it has been good.
Gopher Hole: What would it maybe mean to have the chance to play for the homestate school?
Ben Carlson: It would be really cool. My family could watch me every game. Lots of fans. It would be a really cool experience.
Gopher Hole: You had great chemistry on your D1 Minnesota AAU team this spring and summer. Do you think helps you a lot for college because you are obviously going to be playing with great college teammates because your AAU team is very unselfish and knows how to play together?
Ben Carlson: It helps for sure being on the team because everyone on our team is probably going to go to a Division I school for basketball, so it helps playing with those guys every day in practice. It helps a lot.