Ben Carlson, a 6-foot-8 junior forward from East Ridge (MN) High, is ranked as state’s third ranked player in the Class of 2020 and the number 61 prospect in the country in his class.
Carlson is averaging 15.2 points per game for the Raptors. He scored a season-high 26 points in an 83-71 win over Cretin-Derham Hall.
Carlson helped lead the Raptors to a 23-6 record last year, losing to Cretin-Derham Hall 62-52 in the Class AAAA Section 4 finals.
Gopher Hole recently caught up with Carlson to talk recruiting and his junior season.
Gopher Hole: Breakdown Sports has you ranked as the number one team preseason. Seeing those rankings, does it affect you guys at all? Have you talked about that much at all yet?
Ben Carlson: Whenever you are number one in anything, you’ve got a target on your back, so that just makes us work extra hard because we know everyone we play is coming for us even harder just because we are ranked number one, so we just have to work harder than everyone else because we are going to have a target on our back every time we play.
Gopher Hole: You played Hopkins, one of the tougher teams in the state and you have a big matchup next week. Do you like playing those tough games to get you ready for a big season?
Ben Carlson: Those definitely help. Playing good opponents because our ultimate goal is getting to the state tournament and those are teams that you are going to be playing in the state tournament, so it obviously helps us playing them in the regular season.
Gopher Hole: You have come close to making it to the state tournament the past few years and I’m sure that is the goal this year. What is it going to take to get to play at the Target Center next March?
Ben Carlson: I guess playing hard every game, because I know that everyone is going to give us their best game, so we have to play hard every game and don’t take anyone for granted. I think that as long as we play as a team and talk like we should, I think that we can get there, if we just work hard.
Gopher Hole: What is the latest on your recruitment right now? How many offers at you up to right now?
Ben Carlson: I’m at 15. One of my latest is Xavier from a couple of weeks ago.
Gopher Hole: Did you get a chance to go to many college football games or visit some campuses? I know one of the things that you have been able to do a lot is check out many of these schools so far already?
Ben Carlson: I haven’t been to any in a while. The last one was Ohio State and Michigan, That was in September. It has been good to go see a couple of schools. I haven’t been to a ton since the season has started now, but we’ll see what happens.
Gopher Hole: Do you think that you gain a lot from those experiences? You get to see as little more insight than the average person could see.
Ben Carlson: It definitely helps, because you get to see the facilities and the coaches. You get to talk to some of the players. That definitely helps in the recruitment.
Gopher Hole: Any plans to go to any college games? I know that it is tough with your schedule.
Ben Carlson: It’s tough. I know that some teams have asked me to come down, but it is just hard with my schedule, but I know that teams have been asking. We might try to make it down to a couple of games this season.
Gopher Hole: I know that you are only a junior, but does it feel weird to finally be an upperclassmen this year?
Ben Carlson: Yes, it’s weird. I just remember last season as a sophomore. Times flies by. Junior season has started. It’s crazy, but it is going to be a lot of fun this year.
Gopher Hole: Does that make you think that the college choice is coming up pretty quickly as well?
Ben Carlson: Yes, it’s crazy. Time is flying by. Sooner than later, it is going to be this time next year and I’ll have to make a decision, so I just have to have fun while I can on this.
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: Probably coaching staff like the head coach. The relationship I have with them. Their style of play and their academics are the biggest things for me.
Gopher Hole: What are you hearing from the homestate school right now, the Gophers?
Ben Carlson: They are talking to me like every other day. They are always texting me or calling me. They are always in contact with me, which is good.
Gopher Hole: Obviously, they have some Minnesota kids especially true freshman like Gabe Kalscheur and Daniel Oturu, who you have played against and they are starting right away. Does that make you look at them a little bit differently that you could be a homestate kid who could stay here and play early in your career?
Ben Carlson: Yes. That is obviously a good sign that they want to play whoever they have that is the best. That is really good if you are going to go there and you are a freshman. That is a good bonus.