Gophers guard Payton Willis to transfer

Willis started 25 games for Minnesota last season.

Guard Payton Willis brings the ball up the court at Williams Arena on Sunday, Nov. 24. The Gophers defeated North Dakota 79-56.

Nur B. Adam

Guard Payton Willis brings the ball up the court at Williams Arena on Sunday, Nov. 24. The Gophers defeated North Dakota 79-56.

Nick Jungheim

A busy day continued on Thursday for the Gophers. Shortly after graduate transfer Brandon Johnson announced he would join the program, guard Payton Willis announced his decision to transfer elsewhere.

Willis announced on social media that he would enter the NCAA Transfer portal after two seasons with Minnesota. He played one season in the maroon and gold after redshirting in 2018-19.  For his first two seasons of college basketball, Willis played at Vanderbilt.

This past year, Willis had the most productive season of his college career. The redshirt junior played in 27 games, starting 25. He averaged a career-high 8.9 points per game, shooting 35.9% from 3-point range.

With the departure of Willis, the Gophers may have to replace as many as four regular starters from a year ago. Senior Alihan Demir graduated and sophomore Daniel Oturu declared for the NBA Draft. Redshirt sophomore Marcus Carr announced his decision to test the NBA Draft as well, but there remains a path for him to return to college if he withdraws.

At the end of the semester, Willis will earn his degree, making him a graduate transfer, meaning he will become eligible to play immediately next season. As for Minnesota, his departure will open up one additional scholarship for next year’s team.