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Gophers men’s basketball out with old and in with new players

The Gophers started summer practices on June 10.
Image by Champ Howard
Players wore black shirts with E^2 across the front meaning “Everything Everyday.”

Among the few familiar faces for the Gophers men’s basketball team were a handful of transfers practicing in Dinkytown on Monday. 

Head coach Ben Johnson retained only five players from last season’s squad due to the transfer portal, graduation and the NBA draft. Johnson understands the program is starving for wins, so he recruited older and experienced players. 

“I like the fact that they have experience,” Johnson said about the new Gopher players. “They’ve been around the block, so although the way we do things might be different, at the end of the day they understand what goes into winning.”

Johnson added his six new rising seniors and one rising junior are not learning Division I basketball over again, rather they are learning Johnson’s system. 

The head coach holds high expectations for senior forward Dawson Garcia. From Savage, MN, Garcia averaged 17.6 points and 6.7 rebounds his junior season and earned a spot on the All-Big Ten Second Team from the media and third team from conference coaches.

Johnson said the next step for Garcia is to win Big Ten Player of the Year. 

Garcia, who could have transferred or gone pro, said the decision to return was not easy. 

“You get things thrown at you all the time that are very tempting, but you have to stay true to your roots,” Garcia said. 

Garcia is entering his third season as a member of the Gophers. He only has two teammates remaining from his first season with the maroon and gold but has found ways to connect with the new transfers.

“Lu’Cye Patterson, a hometown kid, he’s never afraid of the moment,” Garica said. “Frank Mitchell is a really good passer, great rebounder. I’m excited about each and every (transfer).”

Mitchell, a rising junior, was a top-five rebounder in the nation last year, averaging 11.6 rebounds per game. 

Senior Mike Mitchell Jr., a top-three scorer for the Gophers last season, said he and Patterson need to play on the ball more after Elijah Hawkins transferred to Texas Tech

Mitchell Jr. spoke about the changing landscape of college basketball, with agencies affiliated with schools calling to recruit him nearly every day.

“(They can be) very aggressive, nonstop calls until the last day the portal is open,” Mitchell Jr. said. “I was probably getting five or six calls a week.”

Mitchell Jr. said he stayed because of his faith in the coaching staff and the opportunities he received as a transfer last year. 

The Gophers finished their last season with a 19-15 overall record. The team ended any hope of a Big Ten tournament run after a loss to Michigan State in the second round. The Gophers accepted their National Invitation Tournament bid and lost in the second round to Indiana State, ending their season. 

Gophers Roster as of June 18

00 – Frank Mitchell/Junior/Forward

1 – Isaac Asuma/Freshman/Guard

2 – Mike Mitchell Jr./Senior/Guard

3 – Dawson Garcia/Senior/Forward

4 – Kadyn Betts/RS-Sophomore/Forward

5 – Trey Edmonds/Senior/Forward-Center

6 – Caleb Williams/Senior/Guard

7 – Max Sheridan/Sophomore/Guard

10 – Grayson Grove/Freshman/Forward

11 – Femi Odukale/Senior/Guard

12 – Erick Reader/Sophomore/Forward

23 – Parker Fox/RS-Senior/Forward

24 – Brennan Rigsby/Senior/Guard

25 – Lu’Cye Patterson/Senior/Guard

54 – Lincoln Meister/Senior/Forward

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  • Jesse
    Jun 28, 2024 at 5:23 pm

    Just a few more years and the disaster that is Gopher men’s basketball will be eclipsed by the University of St. Thomas, the soon to be top D1 program in the state.

  • Michael P Hyland
    Jun 20, 2024 at 2:47 am

    Looking forward to see how quickly they can jell as a team, and have confidence in each other. They have the potential to be competitive. God Bless them all! Amen!