These first couple weeks for Ben Johnson are going to be very long days. I suspect he will be on the phone non-stop for the next several days. He will fitting in media requests/interviews in between making calls to fill out his coaching staff, calling key local coaches, talking with potential recruits, looking deeply into the transfer market and RE-recruiting a number of the players on the Gopher roster.
What comes first and what is priority for day 1? I don’t know. We will get to the rest of those steps, but we are starting with the current roster.
Who will stay? Who will go? Get ready for pure speculation.
- Gabe Kalscheur - Johnson was the primary recruiter for Kalscheur out of high school and I would be very surprised to see him leave at this point in his career. 90%
- Sam Freeman - I may be overestimating the chances that Freeman stays at Minnesota. He very well may choose to leave, he really has no ties here other than spending the last 2 seasons in a Gopher uniform. I think he sees an opportunity for more playing time and Johnson will like having his big body. Freeman started to show that he can do some things in the Big Ten by the end of the season. 75%
- Both Gach - A change of staff is exactly what Gach needs and maybe this new staff will be able to get more consistent play out of Gach. He has already transferred once, he’s back near his family and I think he will welcome the new change. 85%
- Treyton Thompson - Incoming freshman center from Alexandria, MN. Thompson chose MN in large part because it was Minnesota. I’m guessing that he is likely to remain a Gopher, but you never know. 75%
50/50 - SO YOU’RE SAYING THERE’S A CHANCE
- Tre Williams - Williams, even more so than Gach, may benefit from this change. Johnson may be the perfect hire for Williams. I really hope he stays, will be a key contributor next season and will thrive under Johnson. 60%
- Liam Robbins - On the one hand, he was recruited to transfer here because his uncle was on the staff. While it seems unlikely that Conroy is also on Johnson’s staff (though not out of the question), will Robbins want to stay? He’s losing the key reason for coming here, but he has a lock on being a starting center in the Big Ten. Transferring somewhere else, he may not have that guarantee. This, again, feels like a good fit for him to stay. But maybe he will follow his uncle to the next destination. 55%
- Brandon Johnson - Absolutely love this kid and how hard he played this season. He was a great grad transfer. Now Johnson gets a free year to play if he wants. Will he move on with life? Will he choose to have one more run through the Big Ten? He may be a starting Big Ten PF for one more year, he may also end up coming off the bench in a valued role. I think this one will depend a lot on those first couple conversations with Coach Johnson. 50%
- Isaiah Ihnen - This is an interesting one. Like Gach, Ihnen needs a change. Unlike Gach, he has no ties to Minnesota or this program. I suspect he will wait and see, hear what Johnson has to say and make his decision in the next couple weeks. 45%
DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH
- Jamal Mashburn Jr. - Ben Johnson has a lot of important phone calls to make this week. Personally, I think this is absolutely the first one he needs to make. Before any potential recruits, potential transfers...Mashburn is priority #1. The only reason Mashburn ended up being a Gopher was because of Pitino and he very quickly put his name into the transfer portal when Pitino moved on. But Johnson may be able to sell Mashburn on being his starting PG in the Big Ten and how he plans to orchestrate an offense around the young guard’s abilities. Before the Pitino firing was announce, I gave Mashburn about a 10% chance of staying. Now...25%
- Marcus Carr - Carr is perpetually testing the NBA waters and has already announced that he will do so again. I don’t think the NBA or G-League is in his future, but he will be able to find a home getting paid to play overseas. I believe he will make that choice this year. As Johnson is building the roster and having such a ball-dominating guard may not be what he wants to get started with. 5%
- Martice Mitchell - Once again, zero ties to this program other than Pitino and Mitchell has not shown that he belongs on a Big Ten roster. I think this will be a mutually agreed upon time to transfer. 0%
- Jarvis Omersa - didn’t play throughout this season, quickly entered the portal and will find a lower level where he can get some playing time. I give it a tiny sliver of a chance because I think Omersa has real joy and passion for this team, maybe he will want to be a part of what’s being built. 1%
- Eric Curry - he was already gone and his collegiate career as a player is over.
- Kenny Pohto - Incoming recruit who played at Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas. Pohto has signed, but I suspect he will take a look around at his spring options. Kyle Linsted was his primary recruiter and if he’s not remaining on staff, I won’t be surprised to see Pohto find a new home. 20%
There is going to be a lot of roster turnover this year. This is common in a coaching transition, especially in today’s college basketball transfer environment. Seems very likely that Johnson will have somewhere between 6-9 scholarships to work with. Some to be used now, some to be used in upcoming classes.
More on who would be good fits to come into the program will be coming. But first is understanding who is coming back and understanding what your needs are.
If Johnson can convince Mashburn to stay, along with Robbins and Williams; then there is some real optimism for the 2021-22 team. Those three, plus Kalscheur would make a really nice core that will be supplemented by transfers and perhaps others deciding to stay (Brandon Johnson, Gach, Ihnen and Freeman).
Hiring Johnson was not at all about the immediate roster needs, it is about what he can build down the road. But we all still want this team to be fun to watch and competitive next season. Shaping the immediate roster is part of the process and the next couple weeks should be very interesting.