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Minnesota Basketball: Gophers sign 3 incoming freshmen as part of Fall Signing Day

Ben Johnson inks his first recruiting class and it’s a good one.

Brad Rempel

Believe it or not yesterday was National Signing Day for basketball (and other sports not named football). Ben Johnson is officially inking his first recruiting class as three high school kids are signing their national letters of intent to play for Minnesota.

This current Gopher roster was quickly cobbled together by Johnson and his staff after they were hired last spring. But this is the first round of players who were specifically recruited to come and help build the Gopher program in the way Johnson wants to build it.

One of the key reasons that Johnson was hired was to attempt to do a better job of keeping some of the very talented players from Minnesota in Minnesota. This initial class does just that. Here are the three players who have signed their NLI.

Braeden Carrington

Pos: SG
High School: Park Center
Ht: 6’3”
TDG Recruit Link: HERE

Carrington was the first verbal commit to Ben Johnson and was clearly a priority for the staff. He is going to bring athleticism and shooting to the program. This is one of the top players in Minnesota and Gopher fans should be very excited about what Carrington will bring next fall.

“We’re so excited to have Braeden as a Gopher,” Johnson said. “He was the first to commit to our program and really bought into what we’re trying to do here. He’s an unbelievable kid and competes at a high level and loves to win. Coming from a great high school program, he’s really skilled, can shoot the ball and has a knack for scoring. He understands and loves the game. Being close to home is special to him and excited to get him on campus.”

Josh Ola-Joseph

Pos: SF
High School: Osseo
Ht: 6’6”
TDG Recruit Link: HERE

Ola-Joseph has been playing his high school basketball just down the road from Carrington, but he is going to spend his senior year at a prep school, so he will not be seen in local gyms this winter.

He is going to bring incredible athleticism to the program. Ola-Joseph reportedly has a 40” vertical and has an extremely long wing-span. The hope is that the Gophers are getting someone in the mold of Damian Johnson with a little more offensive game.

“Joshua has a blue-collar, warrior mindset,” Johnson said. “He’s athletic, tough, hard nosed and versatile. His best basketball is ahead of him and competes every day. High energy and passion for the game, he’s driven to get better and win. He’s looking at this opportunity to be able to build this program to where we want it to be and has a lot of state pride.”

Pharrel Payne

Pos: PF
High School: Park (Cottage Grove)
Ht: 6’9”
TDG Recruit Link: HERE

A fast riser up the recruiting rankings, Payne is going to be a really nice big man for the Gophers. He comes with a very strong lower-body, giving him a solid base to hold his own against Big Ten posts.

After a highly successful summer, Payne saw offers roll in but wanted to be a Gopher.

“Pharrel is extremely underrated and undervalued in my opinion,” Johnson said. “He stuck out immediately when we saw him and has tremendous upside. He’s physically going to be ready to play as a true freshman. He can play inside, out and has an unbelievable motor. The sky’s the limit for Pharrel.”

Technically the Gophers have 7 available scholarships for next season. Only three have been taken. There will most certainly be some more work done on the transfer portal next spring, likely to bring in a point guard and another big man.

This is the base of the class and they are currently ranked as the 9th best class in the Big Ten. A couple of the names above were really late risers and I would expect to see them move up the rankings throughout the season. But how well their game translates to the Big Ten is far more important than where they rank as high school seniors. This is a great class of local kids and Gopher fans should be excited about the talent coming into the program.